The gambling industry is to be allowed to screen advertisements during sporting events in return for a pledge to remove its logos from children’s replica football shirts.
Television adverts for bookmakers, casinos and gambling websites will be allowed for the first time from next month as new laws take effect.
It emerged yesterday that James Purnell, the Culture Secretary, has won a battle to impose a 9pm watershed on the adverts when the gambling industry published a voluntary code of conduct before the liberalisation on September 1.
He has allowed an exemption for sporting events screened earlier in the day, to the dismay of campaigners.
In return, the gambling industry says it will include a commitment in its new code of conduct not to include the logos on children’s replica football shirts.
The restriction raises a question over multimillion pound Premier League sponsorship deals.
The online casino company Mansion paid GBP 34 million to have its logo on Tottenham Hotspur’s shirts. Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa also have gambling sponsors.
Yesterday, the Spurs shop continued to sell GBP 30 replica “youth” shirts, with the Mansion logo.
Clubs demanded clarity over the definition of a children’s shirt.
A football official said: “We serve plenty of oversize kids who need an adult size. We don’t want them to become walking billboards, however slow-moving, for gambling firms.”
An official for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it was an “expectation” that children’s replica football shirts would be free of gambling logos within six months.
Children’s shirts and other merchandise are likely to be defined as those that do not attract VAT.
Club sponsorship agreements signed before September 1 will be honoured. Mr Purnell said: “The protection of people and the vulnerable is the top priority.
“I am pleased that the industry has published this code of conduct. We will be watching closely to see how it operates.”
Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral, the big three high street bookmakers, are likely to benefit most from the advertising exemption for sporting events, such as football games and racing.
However, there will be no restrictions on the number of television advertisements from casino operators and gambling firms, which can appear after the 9pm watershed.
A spokesman for the Advertising Standards Authority said: “You could have a sequence of a casino advert, followed by a bookmaker and then another casino advert during one break.
“It is up to broadcasters how they sell their adverts, providing they comply with the strict code.
“But gambling is such a sensitive issue we do not believe broadcasters will allow a betting free-for-all.”
Television gambling adverts must not feature people under 25 or suggest that betting can solve financial problems.
A spokeman for the Salvation Army said: “This is a welcome step but doesn’t go far enough as one of the social groups most prone to problem or illegal gambling is teenagers, many of whom will wear adult-sized replica shirts.”
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will announce tomorrow a “white list” of properly regulated gambling websites based abroad.
The move could lead to hundreds of websites based outside the European Economic Zone being stopped from advertising on television and in newspapers. The voluntary code was backed by 12 associations representing the gaming industry, including the British Casino Association, the Association of British Bookmakers and the Remote Gambling Association.
The new code
- Gambling products, except bingo and the Lottery, should not be advertised on television before 9pm
- Sports betting advertising will be allowed around televised sporting events before the watershed. Televised dancing and celebrity ice-skating competitions do not count as sporting events
- Logos and other gambling promotional material should not appear on commercial merchandise which is designed for use by children, such as replica sports shirts
- Postwatershed advertisements must not portray, encourage or condone gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial harm
- Adverts must not link gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness
- Adverts must not be directed at children or feature people who are, or who appear to be, under 25 or suggest that gambling can be a solution to money problems
- Print adverts to include an approved message
- Adverts to include a reference to: www.gambleaware.co.uk.