Bristol City Council has announced a complete ban on gambling advertisements.
The city updated its advertising and sponsorship policy and introduced a ban on gambling advertisements as well as further restrictions on advertisements of alcohol, payday loans, and foods with high sugars and fat content.
Under the updated policy, advertisements for gambling and other restricted products or services will be banned from appearing on council-owned spaces, including billboards, social media channels, all of Bristol’s 180 bus stops, as well as on digital screens at council-owned venues such as libraries and museums.
Advertising will also be banned in Bristol’s parks and green space unless the ads are for “an outlet or event within that space”.
According to the Bristol Cable, the council has estimated that the ban could lead to a revenue loss of £150,000 per year for the city if other companies do not take up the advertising space. It claims that this loss could be balanced by reducing the risk of public health harm and the costs associated with those products and services.
Bristol City Council claims that the Advertising and Sponsorship policy is the “most complete of its kind in England”, with Councillor and Bristol Deputy mayor Asher Craig saying:
“We take the health of our residents seriously and have been working with our local public health experts for some time to find ways to support the health of our citizens. One of the ways we intend to do this is to restrict the most harmful types of advertising from city centre banners, digital screens and bus stop adverts.
“By putting people’s health first, we have made Bristol’s policy one of the strongest in the country, leading by example and showing [a] willingness to take a potential hit on our income in order to support people’s health and wellbeing.”
Local campaign group Adblock have praised the move but have released a petition urging the Bristol City Council to go further and introduce advertising bans on high carbon products and services, such as airlines. The petition has amassed 1,000 signatures, but as Bristol would be the first city to introduce a ban, the council will need to hold a public consultation which cannot be done until after local elections in May.
Bristol City Council’s announcement of a ban on gambling advertisements comes as the UK continues to implement tighter restrictions on gambling. This month alone, GamCare launched its new Safer Gambling Information industry code, requiring operators to provide consumers with straightforward, well-signposted safer gambling tools and support services across all platforms.
Also, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm (APPG) last week wrote to UK television channels urging them to end gambling sponsorships of daytime television programmes.
The news also comes as the UK Gambling Commission has come under fire for its handling of Football Index, which has gone into administration after the UK Gambling Commission suspended its operating license following a review of the Football Index website.
Amid the controversy, Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission Neil McArthur has announced his immediate resignation from the role after almost 15 years. According to FocusGN, Deputy Chief Executive Sarah Gardner and Chief Operating Officer Sally Jones have stepped up as joint acting Chief Executives as the regulatory body looks for a permanent replacement.
Speaking about his departure, Neil McArthur told FocusGN: “I am proud of everything the Gambling Commission has achieved during my 15 years with the organisation. We have taken significant steps forward to make gambling fairer and safer and I know that I leave the organisation in a strong position to meet its future challenges.
“With a review of the Gambling Act underway now feels the right time to step away and allow a new Chief Executive to lead the Commission on the next stage in its journey.”
Bill Moyes, Chair of the Gambling Commission, added: “On behalf of the Board I would like to thank Neil for his many years of commitment and service to the Gambling Commission. A lot has been achieved during his time here and Neil can rightly feel proud of the organisation’s progress during his tenure as Chief Executive.”
McArthur’s resignation has shocked the industry, particularly as the UK Government is currently in the midst of conducting its review of the Gambling Act 2005. The review could lead to some major changes across the industry, including a potential ban on gambling sports sponsorships.
However, the Charmain of the English Football League (EFL) has stated that a ban on gambling sports sponsorships would be “catastrophic” for small football clubs that are already struggling due to the pandemic.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Rick Parry said: “There’s no evidence to suggest that banning sponsorship will reduce the prevalence of problem gambling.”
Parry also explained that the EFL, which is preparing to submit evidence for the Gambling Act 2005 review, will be able to make a “good case” that betting sponsorships in football haven’t sparked an increase in problem gambling.
The EFL Chairman then explained that shirt sponsorships are the biggest commercial deals available to football clubs, and under the ban, the EFL’s football clubs could lose more than £40 million in annual revenue.
Parry states that a sponsorship ban in the wake of the pandemic “would be catastrophic” and that gambling operators, football clubs and leagues should be given the freedom to enter commercial partnerships.
Already under the Gambling Act 2005 review, the UK Government has announced that the age limit for the National Lottery will increase from 16 to 18 this October. What’s more, the online sales of lottery tickets to under-18s will be banned from this April.