Gambling Advertising in Sport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:11 pm on 19th March 2020.

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Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 5:11 pm, 19th March 2020

I thank the hon. Member for his comments. He may be tempting me to pre-empt the conclusions of the gambling review that we will be conducting, and I will say more about it later. However, that review will be forthcoming—it was in the manifesto—and we will all have plenty of opportunity to look further into these issues. I cannot say too much more on the specifics at the moment, but I understand the point he is making.

It is true that operators are spending far more on advertising. Research has indicated that operators have increased their spend on advertising and marketing significantly in recent years. It would be easy to assume that that has led to increased rates of gambling or of problem gambling, but, according to the Gambling Commission, the percentage of those who gambled in the last year was 47%, which was 1% less than the percentage who gambled in 2016, and rates of problem gambling have remained relatively steady, at below 1% for the past 20 years. Before the hon. Member for Swansea East intervenes, as I know she will on that point, let me say that that is too high—that is one thing we agree on. We continue to keep a careful eye on the evidence, but more advertising does not seem to lead to more people gambling or more people suffering from gambling problems.

However, there are clearly legitimate concerns about problem gambling. I am pleased that the industry has listened to concerns, such as those raised by the hon. Lady, and has acted to some extent: it has extended existing restrictions on pre-watershed advertising to include live sport—the so-called “whistle-to-whistle ban” that she mentioned.

Protecting children and other vulnerable people from gambling harms is a priority for the Government. Gambling advertising, like alcohol, is already governed by strict rules to ensure that it is not targeted at children and is not of particular appeal to them. Where advertising breaches these rules, the commission can and does take action.

We know that millions of people gamble each year and that nearly 7% of the population bet on sport last year. Most of those people will suffer no harm, but gambling does carry risks. That is why, as part of the last gambling review that took place between 2016 and 2018, we secured a commitment from industry to fund a multimillion-pound safer gambling advertising campaign to highlight the risks and encourage safer gambling behaviours.

Of course, advertising is not the whole story; sponsorship is an important source of income for sporting teams and bodies, as the hon. Member for Swansea East mentioned. The Gambling Commission has been clear that operators must undertake their sponsorship activities in a socially responsible way. The FA has strict rules about the size and placement of operator logos and has taken action when those have been breached. Logos cannot feature on shirts worn by youth team players and on merchandising, including shirts in children’s sizes. Paddy Power’s stunt with Huddersfield led to the FA fining the club.