AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 03.02.2022 · last updated 03.02.2022

Gambling advertising continues to be a hot topic, especially in the UK, where the enormous sector remains the biggest in the world in no small part to the sheer scale of the means with which companies promote themselves. 

The latest developments have been quite interesting, with some sections of the industry showing no sign of taking their collective foot off the proverbial gas in their quest to add to their coffers by continually coming up with increasingly shiny promos, and others volunteering to scale down their advertising in certain areas. Examples of the latter are some of the UK’s biggest names in gambling, who have reportedly pledged to stop advertising altogether during the live broadcasting of sports events – most notably football. Certain leading members of the Remote Gaming Association (RGA) are said to have agreed to a so-called ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban on betting adverts.

This, of course, is not unrelated to campaigners having shared their opinions about the potential negative public health implications of gambling commercials – especially regarding football matches. It makes a lot of sense for the industry to be seen to be addressing issues such as this, and to do so with proactive measures is a particularly notable approach. While nothing has yet been finalised, the RGA said nothing that numerous options about the industry’s advertising code were being discussed.

Not surprisingly, such an important subject is not going to be viewed in the same way by everyone, and there are several online gambling providers who are yet to add their names to new measures which would inevitably lessen their advertising clout, and which are still awaiting ratification by the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling.

Note that Horse racing will not be part of this move because to keep its head above water the sport has to rely on betting. All other sports, however, are expected to be included. The extent to which the gambling industry advertises is pretty far-reaching, and the numbers are high. The average person in the UK – from seasoned gamblers to those who might place a bet only on the Grand National or major event final and so on – is more than aware of the presence of betting and gambling companies, the level of advertising being what it is. It’s not just at sporting events themselves that we see ads – it’s not unusual, for example, to sit down in front of the TV to find that you’re about to watch a horror film that’s sponsored by an online gambling operator… Advertising at actual sporting events, with both the attending spectators and any TV audience able to see what’s on offer, is obviously big business and, in turn, a great way for the companies to attract new custom. It’s reasonable, then, to assume that any reduction in this more traditional form of advertising is a significant, forward thinking move on the part of these major players. Having said that, the gambling industry invests around five times more on online advertising than it does on TV campaigns, for example, which suggests that whatever happens in other areas, it’s the online avenue that continues to be by far the most promising…   

Calling London…

Anyone who’s ever been in London and, for example, taken a journey using the famous Underground will have noticed that, from start to finish, it’s wall-to-wall adverts. Even as passengers are taken via seemingly endless escalators deep beneath the great city’s bustling streets, they’re presented with all manner of adverts. 

One sector that really went to town – literally – last year was, apparently, cryptocurrency firms who, in a bid to strike while the proverbial iron was red hot, hit Londoners using public transport with a record number of adverts in 2021. 

Ironically, this happened after London mayor, Sadiq Khan, had promised a ban on gambling adverts that Transport for London (TfL) didn’t subsequently implement. 

In fact, when the Guardian newspaper obtained the relevant numbers under the Freedom of Information Act, they learned that in the six months between April and September 2021, TfL services featured 39,560 crypto adverts from 13 companies.

Previously, 2018 had been the busiest year for crypto ads on TfL (since data first started being recorded in 2017), but with ‘only’ 15,000 ads shown in 12 months. £825,245 has been spent by Crypto companies on adverts on TfL tube and train services since 2018, and this total doesn’t include buses, for which Tfl holds no data. 

Meanwhile, in 2018-19, online casinos and bookmakers spent £783,476 advertising on TfL services, then £1m the following year, and £1.16m in 2020-21 – big numbers indeed. Moreover, they pumped £1.17m on ads in the first three months of 2021-22 alone! At six times higher than the rate of advertising spending in that sector in 2018, it’s not surprising that there are campaigns to reduce and even ban such ads…

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