New code to restrict gambling ads and sponsorship

The gambling industry has bowed to government pressure and agreed that the logos of betting companies should not be printed on children’s replica football shirts.

A new advertising code to be announced this week will commit gambling companies which sponsor Premiership clubs to remove their branding from children’s kit. It will also restrict advertising before the 9pm watershed.

Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Blackburn and newly promoted Sunderland all have lucrative shirt-sponsorship deals with online betting companies.

The agreement follows a meeting with the Culture, Media and Sports Secretary, James Purnell. ‚The prospect of ads for online gambling sites during programmes like Coronation Street was something he was determined to prevent in order to protect children,‘ said a Whitehall source. ‚He also feels strongly that the idea of children seeing gambling adverts or being able to wear football shirts with gambling logos is wrong.‘

New gambling law gives the Secretary of State wide powers to limit advertising. Purnell reportedly told industry representatives that he would not hesitate to act unless they tightened the voluntary rules. Under the new code, there will be no gambling adverts before the watershed and they will carry ’social responsibility signposting‘ similar to that in alcohol advertising.

The government is to continue an exemption for sports-betting adverts during televised Premiership games and other broadcast sporting events, as well as lottery and bingo advertising – in part because the income helps to support grassroots and minority sports.

The move by Purnell – coming on the heels of Gordon Brown’s decision to shelve plans for a supercasino in Manchester – is the latest sign of the government’s retreat from Blair-era policies on gambling. An industry executive who took part in the talks said that, despite pressure from local MPs to revive plans for casinos in Manchester and Blackpool, any such move seemed ‚very, very unlikely‘.