Stephen van Rooyen: Sky – RGA code will not tackle ‘standards disparity’ in gambling advertising

Stephen van Rooyen, the Chief Executive of Sky UK & Ireland, has written a personal letter to The Times, stating that the industry’s planned ‘whistle-to-whistle ban on gambling/betting advertising’ during sports broadcasts will have minimal impact as a gambling-prevention measure or safeguard.

This week, UK gambling stakeholders await the full publication of a new mandatory advertising/marketing code, agreed-on by members of the Remote Gambling Association (RGA).

Within its policy and conduct mandate, the RGA is expected to announce a voluntary UK operator ban on TV advertising during live sports broadcasts, in an effort to ease public and political concerns attached to gambling-related content becoming too prevalent with UK audiences.

Leading Sky UK, van Rooyen states that whilst the directive ‘sounds a reasonable plan’, the reality of betting advertising expenditure portrays an ‘inconvenient truth’ for the RGA and its members.

“Independent research from Gamble Aware shows money spent on gambling marketing online is five times that of TV, and the amount of cash spent promoting gambling on social media has more than tripled over the past three years,” he told The Times.

“If the RGA and gambling companies are serious about protecting vulnerable gamblers, then they should start by looking at where they spend the most money, what has the least level of regulation and where there is most evidence of harm: the online world.”

In his letter, van Rooyen details that the RGA should look to close the disparity gap in standards between the highly regulated TV sector and current unregulated online marketing practices undertaken by sector incumbents.

In 2019, Sky UK will implement its comprehensive network protocols significantly reducing its advertising output of betting/gambling related adverts. Furthermore, implementing a new programming policy directive, Sky sports and entertainment networks will only ‘allow one betting/gambling advert to be broadcast per commercial break‘.

A key leadership initiative of van Rooyen’s focuses on audience choice on advertising content, while Sky UK is further developing new ‘ad-block’ capabilities through its AdSmart technology. By 2020, Sky will enable its audiences to block gambling-content be viewed on Sky and Virgin Media digital platforms.

“The irony is that TV advertising is already highly regulated, with rules around exposing inappropriate advertising to minors and limiting when and how often gambling ads can be seen,” van Rooyen added. “This is not the case online.

“If the RGA plan is implemented, then spend would simply shift even further online, with smartphones, tablets and computers targeted with even greater precision. This doesn’t feel like a good outcome for anyone except gambling firms and online tech platforms; the same platforms who by avoiding their tax commitments deny government the funds that society needs.”

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