Despite low problem gambling rate

World Cup leading to "increased gambling misconceptions," warns UK's BGC

Brigid Simmonds OBE, Chairman, BGC.
Reading time 2:38 min

The World Cup has led to “increased gambling misconceptions,” warns the UK’s Betting and Gambling Council. According to Brigid Simmonds OBE, Chairman, the tournament has “sparked a torrent of baseless allegations” against those who bet and betting operators.

"Anti-gambling lobbyists, backed by poorly informed commentators, have reached for ever more extreme reasons to claim this World Cup will cause harm, despite there being no evidence to confirm that,” Simmonds said in a statement. “First off, look at the independent regulator’s assessment of betting in the UK.”

Currently, around 22.5 million adults bet monthly on the lottery, bingo, casinos, gaming online, and on a number of sports, including football. However, despite that popularity, and despite “the very public vitriol directed at betting,” the actual rates of problem gambling among UK adults remains low by international standards at 0.3%, highlights the BGC.

“In fact, despite Covid, and the cost-of-living crisis, problem gambling rates in the UK have been falling for the past number of years,” noted the BGC’s Chairman. “It is not soaring, it is not rocketing, it remains a small number of the many millions who bet safely and responsibly. But that doesn’t mean the sector hasn’t taken concrete steps to reduce harm where they can.”

Members of the Betting and Gaming Council have introduced a “Whistle to Whistle” ban, preventing betting advertising during live football before the watershed. Now, no betting advertising can be shown five minutes before until five minutes after live games on television. This reduced the number of children seeing betting ads by 97%, says the trade body.

Additionally, BGC data shows the move reduced the numbers who saw betting ads during Euro 2020 by 47% compared to the last World Cup. “Television adverts aren’t being increased, they are being decreased,” noted the body. All advertising that is shown follows “strict guidelines,” and 20% of TV and radio advertising is now committed to safer gambling messaging.

Despite these commitments, the BGC Chairman says “emotions are beginning to run high” amid the World Cup, in particular for those who harbor “an entrenched dislike of betting.” The warning comes as the UK works on a new White Paper on gambling, which the BGC calls “a further opportunity to drive up standards” on safe betting. However, the Council warns Government measures should not risk driving punters to the unregulated black market.

“As this long process draws to a conclusion, MPs should not allow emotions to overrule common sense,” said Simmonds. “Any dispassionate analysis of the facts leads to the obvious conclusion that betting is popular, problem gambling is low, while the industry is good for sport, the economy and tax take.”

“The industry takes its responsibility for safer gambling very seriously,” added Simmonds. “To shackle it with the kinds of regulations being called for by prohibitionists would create harm, not prevent it,” he warned. “Common sense must prevail.”

The latest BGC opinion follows other previous similar warnings by the trade body on how to tackle the gambling regulation update. Last month, a YouGov survey for the BGC revealed the concerns of “regular punters” as the Government considers the review of gambling laws. According to the results, 67% of bettors believe compulsory limits risk pushing punters to the black market, while 64% of the public fear the increased use of illegal sites would trigger a rise in problem gambling rates.

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