Should gambling Ads be allowed on TV

tv advertising

Despite the penetration of the internet and mobiles, television is still one the Brits favourite source of entertainment.

Among shows people of all ages have a chance to see  the clever ads many companies have to captivate their public and promote their products. Bookies are no exception, with a remarkable participation in the silver screen,

Being gambling a popular activity with at least 24M brits engaged in it, advertisement has a decisive effect on that figure. The last UK Gambling Commission survey report exposed how 78% of people had seen a gambling ad on television with 20% of them effectively prompted to spend money.

But why does the UKGC make so much pressure over gambling firms’ advertisements?

Gambling Advertisement Effects

Considering Gamstop saying that advertisement is a very subtle call to action, in order to create a firm print, gambling marketers appeal to a very powerful mix of economics and emotions: the quick rich path, a model that proved being effective and has been engraved in the colectived for ages. Because many Brits are struggling with economical pressure, many decide to relieve it giving one shot at gambling.

This results not only in the surveyed adults lured to gambling, but also children exposed to the false impression that gambling is a sure and easy way to make money, an impression that gets reinforced in the short-term after the first big win. The reality is that only only 1% of gamblers are able to make a living of it but after thousands of hours (and pounds) of hard work, discipline, and overcoming nerve-wrecking fast and feast cycles.

TV Advertisement Banning

Since 2018, attempts to reduce TV gambling exposure have been applied,  but there are always loopholes that savy gambling firms know how to exploit.

A great example of that situation is the limitation of TV schedules to advertise, being allowed after the 21:00 hours watershed. But, during sport events gambling operators found ways around Gamstop rules as NonStopCasino says and were able to air their advert to an audience not only composed from adults but also with children and other susceptible groups like problem gamblers in recovery. Viewers complained of the excessive frequency these adverts were on screen, going high as ten per hour, being only five of them from different firms.

The UKGC tackled that situation by banning any gambling advertising five minutes prior and after every sports event with the exception of horse and hound racing which are more related on gambling. Still, there are ways to jump the hurdles.

As the UKGC survey reported, 51% of all gambling advertisements continued to be seen on television, with 37% of them having more than one impression a week. Although the number is decreasing compared to figures five years ago, it also shows that more than a collateral of advertising regulations, it shows how firms are switching to other more profitable platforms, like social media.

Gambling Advertising Effects during Social Isolation

The forced lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, made people have a 48% increase in television consumption and by extension, to gambling advertising impressions. If we add the boredom and anxiety factors is no secret why there is a massive increase in online gambling.

Because of the increasing pressure that social isolation causes on people, the more affected ones are problem gamblers. Fearing further rejection of their condition, they already  ostracized themselves from the world and under the aseptic lockdown and ads bombarding them 24/7 relapsing cases are having increasing numbers.

To prevent further increases of cases he UKGC make the 5 bigger firms( bet365, Flutter Entertainment (owner of Paddy Power and Betfair), GVC (owner of Ladbrokes Coral), Sky Betting and Gaming, and William Hill) signed a pledge to not continuing airing their ads on tv in order to prevent a problem gambling spike than will continue even after after having the Coronavirus under control.

With all that evidence is hard with all the the evidence that can be considered the pros and cons of allowing gambling ads aired on tv,


  • Entertaining the audience. Advertisement has become another feature in the art of persuasion with publishers squishing their creativity in order to engage the public since the first frame.
  • Offering adult gamblers new brands and services to switch or try. In order to make a fair and transparent industry, firms have the opportunity to compete airing their offers and services to attract customers, but following the guidelines of the UKCG.


  • It doesn’t discriminate against the target audience and can mislead Impressionable children to gamble.In June 2019 the NHS opened the first facility for children with problem gambling after reporting 55,000 cases.
  • Continuously its exposure under stressful situations prompts people to gamble.
  • Advertisement strategies can be very invasive and unscrupulous, as every loophole is exploited to promote the services.

A Smokeless but Harmful Alternative

Is quite difficult not to make comparisons between gambling and tobacco advertisement.

In 2005 with the deregulation of the gambling industry there was an absolute ban over the tobacco industry advertising. In the following years, tobacco consumption has been decreasing as younger groups are no longer targeted with the overall population being more aware of the related hazards.

However, even though only 5% of the UK population still smokes, the industry is facing a big levy and being unable to promote their products, tobacco industries are still profitable.

Unlike tobacco, gambling has been part of the UK culture even before its inception as a nation. On the other hand, they face fewer regulations, taxes, and are a service that can be consumed almost immediately, just reaching a cellphone in a pocket and making a bet with a couple of touches. Something that any other product related industry cannot replicate.

Finally, compulsive gambling is not a funny part and is caused more by psychological issues, like depression rather than physical dependence, which occur with substance abuse.


The current pledge of companies not airing their adverts during the current health crisis  mitigates the financial burden many face to keep up under these circumstances. But it might be an opportunity for the UKGC to prevent it. however the gambling industry is more flexible than others and will quickly adapt to that scenario.

With gambling being so deeply rooted in the UK culture there is really no purpose to over stimulate it in order to capture more profits. Like the alcohol, tobacco and sex industries,  gambling will be profitable regardless how many times wars, economic depression, pandemics and even prohibitions cast their shadows over it.

With all thing being said, the day when gambling will be considered legitimized is the day when firms prioritize the wellbeing of their customers over the health of their finances,. because in a business where people must lose in order to obtain a profit, where are the ethics of encouraging people to lose what they can’t afford?