TV advertising: bookmakers see the writing on the wall
The agreement by bookmakers to introduce a voluntary “whistle-to-whistle” ban on television advertising during live sports events, with the exception of racing, is both welcome and beneficial to the betting industry.
Bookmakers have seen the writing on the wall and are undertaking voluntarily what would have been included in at least one party political manifesto.
This is in sharp contrast to legislation reducing the minimum stake on betting shop fixed odd terminals from £100 to £2, where betting shop operators were always on the back foot and not far short from defending the indefensible.
Whilst bookmakers were resisting the maximum stake reduction, the simple phrase that FOBTs were the “crack cocaine of gambling” took hold.
Had bookmakers shown willing to reduce the maximum stake by self-regulation, they may have fended off the cut to just £2, as it was reported that the government was reviewing a number of maximum stake thresholds and might have accepted a £10 cut-off.
Now, the Remote Gambling Association has struck a deal to stop adverts during live sports broadcasts before political pressure results in parliament taking a hand in how much of TV betting advertising can be shown.
Those against gambling say that TV betting advertisements “normalise” betting, add to the rise in problem gamblers and bring about under-age gambling. Whether or not you agree, such views have gained traction and found favour among politicians. That the bookmakers have acknowledged such concerns and done something about it off their own back is a major help to their cause.
The voluntary arrangement is that television advertisements for gambling will not be shown during any live sport events on air prior to or starting before and continuing after the 9pm watershed.
The exception will be racing due to the commercial importance of gambling on its viability.
The Remote Gambling Association has been expedient in its actions – fire prevention rather than firefighting. But bookmaking as a whole will still face continued criticism, including its perceived greed and the use of terms and conditions which often seem to give rise to one-sided interpretation.
What bookmakers have done with their voluntary advertising ban is to rid themselves of a major part of their marketing spend. All the big players spent millions on TV advertising because whilst one did, they all did. It was a vicious circle.
With bookmakers getting a bloody nose from the FOBT measures, where they completely lost their mojo by way of responding to the pressure, they have tried to avoid a repeat with TV advertising. Their pragmaticism may well have saved them from considerable grief.
What the likes of BT Sport and Sky Sports feel is another matter, and with racing exempt from the voluntary measures, its value must have greatly increased.