Critics have poured scorn on bookmakers’ voluntary scheme to cease advertising during football matches, arguing that it will fail to have the desired effect. Leading operators including Bet365, William Hill, Sky Bet, Ladbrokes, Coral, Paddy Power and Betfair agreed to a whistle-to-whistle ban on advertising for the 2019/20 Premiership season. It followed criticism from campaign groups and MPs about the deluge of ads that fans were confronted by when watching World Cup matches. The ban will start five minutes before pre-watershed (9pm) live games and end five minutes after the final whistle.
However, anti-gambling lobbyists say half the ads take place during the build-up or the post-match analysis, which sits outside the ban. Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for gambling, said: “The industry is absolutely relentless. If there is a loophole, the industry will find a way to exploit it to the detriment of others.” Liz Ritchie, of campaign group Gambling with Lives, added: “We should also not forget the £750million spent on direct marketing. Much stricter regulation on online gambling marketing is essential.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has revealed plans to open gambling addiction clinics across the UK as part of a £20.5 billion NHS shake-up. Her Conservative government aims to reach 380,000 adults and 350,000 children to explain the pitfalls of gambling to excess. It claimed that there are 400,000 problem gamblers in Britain, with a further 2 million at risk. Tom Watson, deputy leader at the opposition Labour Party, wants to go one step further by forcing gambling firms to contribute to the NHS treatment for gambling addicts. “Gambling companies have to take more responsibility for harm caused by their products,” he told The Mirror.
Belfast City Council has held Ladbrokes up as a shining example to rivals after voluntarily imposing a £2 maximum stake per spin on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. The government decided to reduce the maximum stake allowed per spin from £100 to £2 in order to protect addicts, and the measure comes into force in April. However, Ladbrokes decided to impose it straight away in Northern Ireland, despite not being legally obliged to do so.
“This council notes the enormous damage which gambling addiction can cause in the lives of individuals, families and communities,” said the council’s Dr John Kyle. “The council calls on betting companies operating in Northern Ireland to follow the decision of Ladbrokes to voluntarily reduce the stakes on FOBT machines in this jurisdiction, in line with the rest of the UK.”
William Hill’s omni-channel director will leave the firm this spring after the London-based bookmaker reshuffled its business. Itai Hadas joined in April 2017 to head up its omni-channel strategy, but that department will be folded into the core business and he is leaving. William Hill continues to invest heavily in the US market, where it has an enviable market position, and it has just appointed Kenneth Fuchs as its new president of digital. “He has a proven record at leading technology/media companies and a strong digital background that will allow us to continue to innovate and enhance our digital offerings as additional states legalize sports betting,” said Joe Asher, chief executive at William Hill US.
News UK has appointed easyodds.com chief executive James Garmston to manage its Sun Racing sports news brand. He joins after a tumultuous year for News UK’s gambling department, which scrapped its Sun Bets brand after it struggled commercially and sportsbook partner Tabcorp decided to end the relationship. Sun Racing offers tips, odds, news and results to punters, but it remains to be seen whether Rupert Murdoch’s firm will try to get back into the sportsbook arena.