Industry 'Own Goals' Fuel Critics In Safer Gambling Week

November 8, 2021
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The UK Gambling Commission is looking into why the websites of several Premier League football clubs were found to have links to betting sites on pages designed for children.

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The UK Gambling Commission is looking into why the websites of several Premier League football clubs were found to have links to betting sites on pages designed for children.

The regulator was alerted to the website pages by the BBC, which found the links on the websites of Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham and Aston Villa, as well as Championship sides QPR, Millwall and Reading.

The BBC report comes amid intense debate over the future of gambling advertising in the UK and drew immediate criticism by opponents pushing for blanket restrictions.

Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm, said the sponsorships are “truly shocking and yet another example of why gambling advertising has no place in sport”.

Although UK advertising rules ban gambling advertising to children, a spokesperson for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) told VIXIO GamblingCompliance the examples of football teams' website promotions are deemed as sponsorships and therefore fall outside of its remit.

However, the ASA did raise these examples with the Gambling Commission for further review.

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) responded to the football sponsorship news on social media, saying all of its members “abide by the CAP (Code of Advertising Practice) and IGRG (Industry Group for Responsible Gambling) advertising codes, which ban the placement of adverts on web pages that are aimed at U18s”.

The BGC also welcomed the steps taken by the clubs to remove the logos once they had been alerted of them.

The BBC report was the latest of several incidents raised by the British media during the UK industry's Safer Gambling Week, which is designed to raise awareness of problem gambling and promote industry and community efforts to reduce it.

When asked about this year's Safer Gambling Week, a BGC spokesperson told VIXIO GamblingCompliance that it was delighted at the support the event receives from all of its members.

“The high level of social media engagement suggests this year’s event has once again been a success,” the BGC said.

The BGC added that the campaign is now firmly established as an annual, cross-industry event designed to kickstart a national conversation on the importance of safer gambling.

Still, news of the football team links follows a pledge from the Gambling Commission earlier in the week to look into how Flutter’s Sky Vegas brand mistakenly offered free spins to recovering addicts.

Additionally, as the UK Safer Gambling Week 2021 began, new data from an affiliate compliance monitoring company revealed the vast majority of affiliate URLs fail to include safer gambling messaging.

David Clifton of Clifton Davies Consultancy told VIXIO that as Safer Gambling Week 2021 has had so many positives, it would be a “huge shame” if it was remembered for the Sky Bet error and BBC discovery.

Clifton noted how the regrettable incidents were quickly addressed and apologised for, but they would still hand “further ammunition to long-standing critics”.

“So much evidence now exists to counter such a criticism, but — regrettably — it’s difficult to argue that these latest failings do not constitute clear ‘own goals’,” Clifton said.

Prior to the launch of Safer Gambling Week 2021, the campaign was also criticised by charity Gambling With Lives CEO Will Prochaska, who called it “the political cringe event” in a recently published op-ed.

Prochaska said the reason gambling firms are so keen to promote Safer Gambling Week is because “there is no credible evidence that safer gambling messages reduce gambling”.

The charity said the latest news about the football clubs was “another failure to protect people on so-called 'Safer Gambling Week'”.

Gambling With Lives also questioned on social media why the football clubs, gambling operators, the BGC, the Gambling Commission and the ASA did nothing about the links until the BBC article “forced them to”.

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