Betting and gaming providers are to remove all TV and radio advertising during the lockdown – in spite of a significant fall in ad spend already seen across the sector.
Addiction specialists described the move as “an unprecedented step during unprecedented times.”
But civil liberties campaigners said the move was a crude and pointless move, as the self-imposed ban will be lifted when the pandemic ends.
Members of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) said they will drop the ads as part of the organisation’s ‘Ten Pledges for COVID-19’ that it launched last month.
Supporters of the move say that it will “ensure that punters are protected” during the pandemic.
But there has already been a 10% drop in the volume of TV sport and casino advertisements – and there are fears that professionals working in the sector could face redundancy as the blackout spreads, causing greater financial and emotional hardship.
But BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher said: “I hope now that other major gambling operators like the National Lottery follow our lead.
Under the BGC’s plans, current betting and gaming advertising slots will be replaced by “safer” gambling messages, donated to charities or removed completely from scheduled broadcast where possible.
Changes will be made “no later than Thursday 7th May” and will last until at least 5th June.
Eytan Alexander, Managing Director of the UK Addiction Treatment Group, which sells counselling services to addicts, said the announcement is “without a doubt” a “welcomed unprecedented step”.
But he added: “What I can’t get my head around is how the BGC will be able to justify switching the adverts back on once the country enters it’s recovery journey from the coronavirus crisis.
“Those most vulnerable and susceptible to betting and gaming adverts right now will still be susceptible to them once this is all over. “Those vulnerable may turn to betting and gaming as a coping strategy now, and again in 12 months time for something else that is happening in their lives.
“But, without added encouragement to do so, they might not take that step now, and they might not in 12 months time. Unless the adverts are switched back on again.” Alexander said he wanted to see gaming and betting advertising banned “forever”.
Earlier this month the GB Gambling Commission’s ban on using credit cards to fund gambling came into effect, with supports hailing its implementation as particularly timely as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.
Civil liberties campaigners and academics have raised questions over the efficacy of such moves, claiming they undermine freedom, are akin to a media blackout and drive betting and gambling activity underground.