On the morning of Thursday 6 December, reports surfaced that in the face of rising public concerns about problem gambling and political pressure, Britain's biggest gambling companies had voluntarily agreed to a ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban on advertising during live sports broadcasts.
A full agreement was later denied but is expected to be settled next week. In response to the story, Harris Interactive launched a nationally representative Harris 24 poll the same day surveying 963 members of the public in eight hours, exploring:
- Gambling habits, and reactions to the advertising ban during live broadcasts
- Awareness, and potential impact of Sports Betting behaviour
- Attitudes towards Gambling Companies, and the potential of further bans on betting advertising in Sports
- 35% of the UK public heard about the news yesterday. This is 51% for those who currently bet on sports online.
- We see overwhelming public support for the ban, 81% agree.
- However, those who currently bet on sports online are less likely to agree, 66%.
- Clearly for this audience, there is a proportion who do not believe this is the right thing for gambling companies to do, and it may even impact their behaviour. We see this in their responses; 23% say they will bet on live sports matches less and 18% will stop doing so altogether. Revenue for gambling companies appears likely to be impacted.
- Despite support from the public, it remains to be seen whether the public believes this is enough to reduce the perceived problems that gambling creates. We see an even split between those agreeing and those disagreeing that this will ‘help reduce the issue of problem gambling’. We saw a very similar theme when we looked at reaction to the Government review into FOBT’s; this news is welcomed to reduce problem gambling, though the public do not see this problem as going away. The industry needs to do more to demonstrate to the public they care about the lives of their customers.
- Furthermore, we see twice as many people disagreeing than agreeing that this will ‘stop people getting into debt’.
- 1 in 3 say it ‘improves their perception of gambling companies’. Although cynicism is also evident. 2 in 3 say ‘gambling companies have only done this due to pressure from the government’.
- An insight into why these opinions remain prevalent is apparent in the public desire for further advertising bans in sports. Over half believe gambling shirt sponsorship and gambling advertising around pitches should also be banned. With just under half believing it should also spread to league sponsorship.
- We also see other reasons why these opinions remain. 2 in 3 say the ‘problem of gambling is getting worse’ with a similar amount saying the ‘government should do more to regulate the gambling industry’.
- The response from current online sports bettors is the same as the wider public in response to these two issues outlined above. Even the target audience want the government to step in and do more, plus are concerned about the issue of ‘problem gambling’.
- Despite this, the news is certainly welcomed by the UK public. The vast majority agree this is the right thing to do and will go some way to reduce negative perceptions many have of the industry. The news of the advertising ban has to some extent already improved perceptions of gambling companies and this is particularly strong among current online sports gamblers (1 in 3 among the public compared to nearly half of active online sports gamblers).
- Although many still disagree this will stop people from getting into debt and help responsible gambling, current gamblers are in higher agreement than the general public. This is reassuring as though many online gamblers admittedly say the advertising ban will likely impact their gambling habits in future, they are also far more likely to recognise its benefits to society in general.
- However, there remains scepticism about both the reasons this ‘voluntary’ ban has happened and the true extent to which it will help change the industry.