During a London Assembly meeting on November 29th, experts and politicians urged Sadiq Khan to ban harmful gambling-related ads on London’s transport network. Khan’s 2021 election pledge was cited during the meeting, as the prohibition of “harmful gambling advertisements” was among the included promises. The meeting also saw calls for the mayor to implement even stricter measures. As reported by the Financial Times, Harj Gahley, adviser/consultant at the Red Card Gambling Support Project, stated that the prohibition should affect all ads that are tied to gambling in contrast to Khan’s planned approach of banning only advertisements that are deemed harmful.
Khan’s 2021 election pledge included an emphasis on how he had already been successful in making ads in the London Underground that promoted body-shaming and junk food illegal, and in his manifesto, he announced his intentions of instructing the TfL to extend the aforementioned regulations so that they also affect gambling ads determined to cause harm. In his pledge, Khan also described gambling addiction as something that “can destroy lives and families.”
Attendees requested clarification on why measures to ban gambling ads have not yet been implemented. Senior Health Advisor to the Mayor, Dr Tom Coffey, responded by saying that the reason for the delay has to do with a request for the UK Gambling Commission to define “harmful gambling.” According to Coffey, the lack of a precise definition could negatively affect forms of gambling that are not problematic enough to warrant a ban, and he named the National Lottery and wagering on the Grand National horse racing event as examples.
The Impact of Problem Gambling
The urging follows an inquiry into how Londoners’ health is impacted by gambling, which was launched in October by the London Assembly. This Wednesday also saw the release of a report of the Executive Director of Assembly Secretariat for the London Assembly Health Committee meeting, which showed that according to UKGC estimates, 0.3% of the population struggles with problem gambling.
In addition, the report also noted that the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) has stated that issues like suicide, depression, alcohol addition, and the usage of drugs are tied to harmful gambling, and a figure of £754.4 – £1,475 million in annual health costs has been estimated to be the result of gambling addiction. Data from NHS England also revealed that the administration has needed to open new clinics in order to accommodate an increasing number of referrals that have to do with problem gambling.
Current UKGC gambling legislation has a number of requirements and prohibitions that dictate what gambling companies can and cannot do when it comes to marketing, and if Khan delivers on his promise to prohibit ads in the London Underground, this will serve as one of the latest regulations to restrict the marketing of gambling products in the UK. Another recent example is that of the Premier League rule announced earlier this year, which states that from 2026 and onwards, gambling ads will no longer be displayed on the front of football players’ shirts. Although not yet implemented, the UKGC is also considering introducing restrictions on how gambling promotions, namely those that grant users free bets and other bonus rewards, are made. Limiting or outright prohibiting wagering requirements is among the proposed changes.
Daniel Williams has started his writing career as a freelance author at a local paper media. After working there for a couple of years and writing on various topics, he found his interest for the gambling industry.