The gambling industry has confirmed plans to press ahead with a voluntary ban on betting adverts during sport programmes from next summer, amid mounting pressure to protect children from excessive exposure to gambling.

Jeremy Wright, the culture secretary, said gambling firms were “stepping up and responding to public concerns”, as the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) – which coordinates five trade bodies – announced details of the proposals.

Companies in the sector would submit to a “whistle-to-whistle” ban on adverts beginning five minutes before pre-watershed live sport events and ending five minutes after. The curbs exclude horse and greyhound racing, which are seen as intrinsically linked to gambling.

At present, online casino firms advertise only during live sports, also under a voluntary code, so the new restrictions would amount to a de facto ban on all their commercials before 9pm.

The IGRG’s ban would also be extended to highlights shows and repeats and would prevent sponsorship of pre-watershed programmes.

John Hagan, the IGRG chair, described the package of measures as a “watershed moment” for his industry. He said: “We believe that these new voluntary TV measures, which have been approved by the trade associations representing every sector of the gambling industry, will drastically reduce the amount of gambling advertising on television and they complement the strict controls that already govern gambling companies around advertising on digital platforms.”

Gambling companies were thought to have been spurred into action by the lessons learned from the failed campaign by bookmakers to prevent maximum stakes on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) being cut from £100.

Bookmakers initially opposed any restrictions on the machines, only to see stakes slashed to their lowest possible level of £2 on the back of a wave of public opinion, which ended in a cross-party push to usher the change in sooner than they had wished.

Wright said: “Gambling firms banning advertising on TV during live sport is a welcome move and I am pleased that the sector is stepping up and responding to public concerns. It is vital children and vulnerable people are protected from the threat of gambling-related harm. Companies must be socially responsible.”

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, who has previously called for a ban on gambling companies sponsoring football shirts, said: “The next step will have to be addressing the gambling adverts that children and vulnerable problem gamblers see online.”

Stephen van Rooyen, the chief executive of Sky UK, was highly critical of the TV ad ban saying it is meaningless unless the industry extend curbs to other media.

“The gambling industry are ignoring the fact they spend five times more on online marketing than they do on TV,” he said. “By cutting TV ads, they’ll simply spend more online, bombarding people’s smartphones, tablets and social media feeds with even more gambling ads. A proportionate and responsible limit to gambling advertising across all media is the right thing to do.”

The voluntary curbs also do not include shirt sponsorship on ads that run around hoardings in stadiums, which means gambling firms will still appear prominently during live sport.

The Guardian revealed in November that the majority of the gambling industry’s spend had shifted online in recent years.


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