By Josh Dimond
One Saturday evening, I was watching ‘Football First’ on Sky Sports, which is a Premier League highlights programme equivalent to ‘Match of the Day’. As this was Sky and not BBC, the 2 1/2 hour programme was interrupted every 15 minutes or so by around 3 minute advert breaks. Usually, I do not pay much attention to adverts. However, on this occasion I was appalled by the amount of gambling adverts that appeared during these breaks. I would estimate that 90% of adverts during these breaks were from gambling companies and appeared one after the other, urging the viewers to bet on football.
At the risk of appearing hypocritical, I do gamble myself. Most Saturdays I will make an accumulator for the football matches taking place that day and put either a £1 or £2 stake on it. I see this as a better alternative to playing the lottery. This is gambling in moderation. Betting with this amount of money is usually less riskier than betting with larger sums. Gambling in moderation is fine. However, it is becoming more common for people to get carried away and subsequently become addicted. Therefore, the constant barrage of gambling adverts and the amount of money they urge customers to bet is unethical.
Gambling has always been a part of sport and the advertising of it has also been apparent for a long time. However, in the last few years there appears to have been a greater influx in the amount of gambling companies. These companies have emerged at around the same time as high interest rate, pay-day loan companies. Like these loan companies that seemingly offer people a quick and easy way out of debt, gambling companies also look to prey upon the working-class, often advertising their company as offering ‘free’ or ‘easy’ money to new customers.
Bet365, Betfair, Ladbrokes, Betfred, BetVictor, Skybet and William Hill are just a few of the leading gambling companies that advertise regularly on television. Most of these company’s T.V. advertisements follow the same theme. Betway, Ladbrokes and William Hill look to connect with their core demographic in their adverts by showing the gambler to be male and working-class. They appeal to the LAD persona; someone who likes his women, drink and football. Others such as Bet365, 666Bet and BetVictor prefer to use celebrities or football personalities. Bet365 uses cockney hard-man actor Ray Winstone to front its advertising campaign. Ray appears in the corner of your screen giving you odds literally moments before the game begins, a new feature this season. Then, at half-time Ray appears again giving you the live odds on the game and telling you to “have a bang on that”. A study from 2013 found that if you followed Ray’s instructions and bet £10 on every live offer over 25 games, you would have only won once and lost £205 in the process.
Similarly, 666Bet also uses cockney in the form of QPR manager Harry Redknapp. Although these two men are both multi-millionaires, their east end London heritage gives them the working-class credentials that are central in gambling advertisements. Skybet takes a different approach to its rivals by using two Sky Sports News anchors for its advert. The advert is crudely disguised as if it was a regular Sky Sports News headline. The same production set and popular news anchors, Jim White and Natalie Sawyer are used to announce Skybet offers as breaking news.
Whilst there are small differences between these adverts, their offers to the audience remain similar. Most advertisements look to reach out to new customers by offering them attractive deals if they sign up. These ‘special’ offers include improved odds on particular matches or free money if you bet a certain amount. Most companies offer an attractive ‘free’ money back offer, such as bet £10 and receive £30 back. What they fail to mention most of the time is that this ‘free’ money back offer can only be used for betting money on their website and cannot be deposited back to your account. Therefore as a customer must bet with their ‘free’ money offer, the betting company is likely to receive their money back.
From September 2014, industry regulators have attempted to impose a ban on companies advertising ‘free money’ offers to new customers. Despite some companies removing this offer, similar deals can still be seen on websites or advertised in a different form. Furthermore, making the gambling companies promote “gamble responsibly” at the end of the advert is about as effective as putting “smoking kills” on cigarette packets. It is not enough. Gambling regulators need to produce tighter restrictions to stop sports viewers being bombarded with these adverts. It is okay to gamble in moderation, but these companies are urging people to bet beyond moderation and beyond what they can afford, which can lead to addiction and debt. There is a reason why gambling and pay-day loan companies have started to appear everywhere on the high street and on televison. At a time where people are facing financial difficulty, they are the only ones making huge financial gain. Please take this into account and gamble responsibly.
Josh is in his 3rd year studying history. Some of his interests include football, politics, 20th century British history, comedy and British cinema.