Monday 27 April 2020 6:15 pm

Gambling firms pull TV and radio advertising during Covid-19 lockdown

The UK’s major gambling and betting firms today said they will remove all TV and radio advertising for the remainder of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Existing ad slots will be replaced by safer gambling messages, donated to charities or removed from broadcast for at least six weeks.

Read more: Gambling firm 888 Holdings pushes ahead with plans despite coronavirus crisis

The decision is aimed at protecting customers during the pandemic, according to industry body the Betting and Gambling Council (BGC).

However, it will come as a huge blow to broadcasters, who are already battling a collapse in advertising revenue during the coronavirus crisis.

BGC members currently account for around 50 per cent of all gambling advertising on TV and radio.

The group said it hoped other major operators such as the National Lottery would also follow suit.

“From day one of this crisis we have sought to protect customers potentially at risk, including announcing stepping up safer gambling measures as part of our 10 pledges for Covid-19 in March,” said BGC chief executive Michael Dugher.

“This latest move by the regulated industry further underlines our commitment to safer betting and gaming with many people cut off and feeling anxious.”

ITV has said it expects a 10 per cent reduction in advertising revenue for April as brands withdraw their campaigns.

In a note to clients this morning, analysts at Moody’s forecast an 18 per cent drop in the broadcaster’s total revenue for 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

“Due to the whistle to whistle ban implemented in August 2019, coinciding with the start of the football season, advertising revenue from sportsbook advertisers had already taken a significant hit for broadcasters,” said Mihir Haria-Shah, head of broadcast at Total Media.

“With no live sport on due to Covid-19 this has got worse for the broadcasters with revenues tumbling in the same way they have from travel and entertainment brands.”

Haria-Shah added that while it was difficult to quantify the exact impact, the loss of revenue would hurt broadcasters “in what is currently a very deflationary market”.

It comes a week after the government wrote to gambling firms asking them for regular updates on how they were tackling problem gambling during the pandemic.

The Gambling Commission, which regulates the industry, has warned of an increase in problem gambling as more people engage with online gambling websites during the lockdown.

Read more: TV sector faces ‘bleak future’ without government intervention

However, BGC boss Dugher denied suggestions there had been an “explosion” in online gambling, saying overall revenue was down 60 per cent as a result of shop closures and the suspension of live sport.

He added that betting firms had already reduced ad spend, while the volume of TV sport and casino spots had fallen as much as 10 per cent.