Four of the UK’s top five bookmakers on Monday signed up to voluntary guidelines designed to prevent the government from imposing tougher laws on digital gambling machines and the ads which accompany them.
Ladbrokes, Coral, William Hill and Paddy Power have agreed to remove shop-front gambling machine ads and will instead dedicate a fifth of their ad space to issuing responsible gambling warnings.
Furthermore, TV ads offering bettors free bets or credit will also be banned before 9pm as part of the scheme to reduce the exposure of gambling to children.
A Paddy Power spokesperson said: “We fully back the Senet Group. It’s important for us to prove to our stakeholders & our customers how seriously we take these issues and self-regulation of our industry.”
Additionally, a Ladbrokes spokesperson told the Drum: “We see it as a significant step earmarking a new era of self-governance. It reflects what we hear from the public on genuine concerns they have and we are pleased that there has been a willingness to put competitive tensions aside to deliver a bold move.”
However, bookmaker Betfred did not sign up to the agreement along with the other firms, however a Betfred spokesman told the Drum that it is engaging in negotiations to adopt the guidelines.
The new industry-funded watchdog, the Senet group, seemingly inspired by the alcohol industry’s Portman Group, has come under fire for being backed by the bookmakers. The campaign group said it would have prefered the watchdog was completely independent from the industry.
A spokesman from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling told the Guardian: “The bookmakers are engaging in desperate conjuring tricks to protect their FOBT market monopoly and, put simply, this is just more smoke and mirrors.
“If the Gambling Commission was fit for purpose there would not be the need for a watchdog. But for any such watchdog to have credibility it should be neither industry-run nor industry-funded.”
In February this year, bookmakers agreed to further regulation upon digital gambling machines allowing users to impose spending limits and 30 second breaks.