Motion to Take Note
That this House takes note of the effect of gambling advertisements on children.
My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I immediately declare what may be perceived as a conflict of interest, in that one of my children is head of policy for Google in the UK.
The genesis of requesting this debate today was a summer of wonderful sport on television. However, every commercial break seemed dominated by gambling advertisements. As I watched sports that my extended family love, I found myself asking several questions. Are these commercials really what I want youngsters to see, seated around my TV set in the security and privacy of my home? Are they going to make these young people more responsible adults? Are they being encouraged to believe that gambling is a normal part of everyday life and something to which they should aspire? Are the warnings about the risks of gambling clear, strong and unambiguous?’
I obviously have the highest possible regard for the advertising industry, which I believe is an immensely positive and powerful tool that contributes significantly to the good of our society, so, in moving this Motion, I imply no criticism of the advertising industry or its regulators. I simply ask: do we know enough about the effects of the welter of gambling promotion on TV and online to which children are now subjected, and is there more we could do as a society to protect them from it? In the light of the Government gambling review due this autumn, this seems an appropriate moment to ask these questions.
I am pleased to say that I am not alone in these concerns. Mr Philip Bowcock, chief executive of William Hill, said at the firm’s 2017 half-year presentation:
“My personal view is that there is too much gambling advertising on TV”.
“I have teenage children and we are sympathetic to some sort of curb or some sort of review around the level of advertising”.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport recently told MPs:
“My children can recite just about every gambling ad there is”.
Some of these worries are clearly shared by a majority of the UK public. According to research from the Gambling Commission, 69% of people in the UK think betting is dangerous for family life and 78% fear there are too many opportunities to do it. Indeed, the members of public who think the practice should be actively discouraged has risen from 36% in 2010 to 55% in 2016.
I am most grateful to my noble friend for raising this important subject. When, more than 20 years ago, I was Minister of State at the Home Office responsible for gambling, the principle that then applied was that there should be no attempt to stimulate demand, which restricted advertising. Does he think we should return to that principle?
That is one option. I am going to suggest at the end of this speech four initiatives that I would like the Government to examine.
In summary, a majority of people in the United Kingdom think that gambling should not be encouraged, that it is dangerous to family life and that it is too easy to do. There are now 400,000 problem gamblers in the UK—up by one-third in three years. The rate of problem gambling has nearly doubled from 0.4% to 0.7%, and among 16 to 24 year-olds, it has doubled from 0.7% to 1.5%. These are disturbing increases because some evidence suggests that gambling is more addictive than alcohol or drugs: about 90% of recovering gamblers relapse, a higher proportion than for these other addictions.
The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that 80% of addicted gamblers think about killing themselves and one in five make an attempt to take their own lives—nearly twice the rate for the other addictions I mentioned. As a result, gambling addiction costs the UK up to £1.6 billion a year in mental health, police and welfare system services. The social effect of addictive gambling does great damage to the family unit and to the disposable income the family should enjoy.
There is, as far as I can ascertain, just one specialist NHS gambling clinic. Founded in 2008, it is funded by the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. Last year, it helped 762 people aged 16 and over, most of whom used mobile gambling apps, a practice which is growing faster and faster. In 2016, the clinic received 20% more referrals from GPs, counsellors and indeed addicts themselves than in 2015. The picture of a growing gambling crisis is not hard to paint, particularly among the young.
The Gambling Commission released a study last year which estimated that some 450,000 young people—one in six of those in this country between 11 and 15—gamble at least once a week. That is a higher number than those who smoke or take drugs, and twice the number who drink alcohol. The research suggests that although the number of children drinking or smoking is falling, the opposite is true of gambling. Statistically, it is probable that 9,000 of these children will become problem gamblers, and yet 60% of them agree that gambling is dangerous, 63% had seen advertisements on social media and 57% saw the promotion of gambling on other websites.
Common sense suggests that the ever-growing advertising budgets of the gambling companies, particularly around and during sporting events, are contributing to this upward trend. Last year the gambling industry spent £312 million—a 63% increase on 2012. A little less than half this budget was spent on TV and a little more than half on online and other advertisements. While TV advertising is up 43% since 2012, online platforms are up 87%. Affiliate marketing is also growing fast. Your Lordships may have seen that just yesterday, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld complaints against some gambling firms over adverts placed by affiliates, the agencies paid to direct gamblers to online casinos and bookmakers. Children are, in my view, being bombarded with gambling messages in all directions, both in conventional advertising and online.
It would be wrong to suggest that my view is universally accepted. The Committee of Advertising Practice and the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising focused their reviews on Ofcom figures which showed that in 2012—admittedly, five years ago—children only saw four gambling commercials a week, and much of this research suggests that there is much less impact on young people than my intuition implies.
What does the current law say about this? The Gambling Act 2005 permits betting and gambling companies to advertise across all media channels in our country. The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling requires all gambling advertisements to be scheduled after the 9 pm watershed, except bingo advertisements or sports betting advertisements shown around the televised sporting event itself. All gambling advertisements are, of course, heavily regulated. Some gambling advertising—for example, “Money back if your horse loses”—can only appear after 9 pm. However, there are three issues here.
The first is that the average age at which children start to watch post-watershed TV unsupervised is now 11 years and three-quarters. Secondly, children now access programmes when they choose, not when they are scheduled. Thirdly and obviously, social media in the online sphere is how the vast majority of youngsters interact with each other, choose their lifestyle and share their experiences. I would be less concerned with this whole subject if I felt that the industry were not glamorising gambling—using film stars, for example, to sponsor their brands. Most importantly, I would be happier if commercials carried a stark health warning. Do we really believe that health warnings such as, “When the fun stops, stop” really tell enough about the danger that gambling could present to the person watching the programme? Do such warnings, or references to the website BeGambleAware, really engage young people and children and educate them about the risks that gambling presents?
Other countries are taking this really seriously. Australia, for example, is considering whether to ban all gambling advertising before 8.30 pm, during all sporting events and for five minutes before and after play. Intuitively, therefore, as a parent and a grandparent, I feel that something is wrong here. Not all the statistics support my case. Some clearly suggest that the damage I am predicting for young people is overstated and the chances of this leading to a gambling epidemic is overblown. What I do know is that we need better, independent information. I am particularly encouraged by the fact that GambleAware is now looking at tendering for research into this very area, particularly online marketing.
I call on the Government to ask four questions as they review the industry. First, should there be any gambling commercials during sporting events? Should children be exposed to these advertisements? Does the 9 pm watershed provide adequate protection to young people in the light of changed viewing patterns and online viewing?
Secondly, in preparing for this debate I found that we need more reliable research, particularly on the online gambling industry and its potential effect on children. I will carefully scrutinise the Government’s recommendations in this area, as I will the work by GambleAware to which I referred.
Thirdly, should we strengthen the health warning on gambling commercials to make the risks gambling can present absolutely clear? I want to be sure that if a child sees an advertisement for gambling, he or she also sees a clear, contextualised statement of the risks gambling can present. This is exactly what we have done to considerable effect with smoking.
Fourthly, will the Government rethink the voluntary contribution by gambling companies of 0.1% of their profits to GambleAware? This is an excellent initiative because it provides the funds for much needed research, education and, very importantly, treatment. Could we not do more in this area? If such initiatives were undertaken, it would go a long way to putting to rest my unease when I next watch a test match or football match at home with my children and grandchildren, because I will feel confident that we are doing all we can, in a free society, to minimise the risk of gambling addiction becoming a growing social issue among the young.
My Lords, a mathematical tweak has had to be made to the time limit on Back-Bench speeches for this debate. The limit is 12 minutes, not 13.
My Lords, this is a timely debate for which I thank the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington—timely because I too believe that gambling advertising has reached saturation point, especially for those for whom sport on television is a wonderful way of being where physically one cannot be. I could not have been in the southern hemisphere for the recent feast of world-class rugby there. Even if I had, I could not have then been in New York for the US Open. But through the wonders of television, I lived some great moments, for which I am hugely grateful.
Further, I am not naive enough to overlook the fact that the revenue from advertising helped to bring these delights to me—a point that would not be lost, to which he has admitted, on a shrewd businessman like the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington. That only makes his concerns about children more potent. Like him, although I was thrilled by the ups and downs of the sport I was seeing, I became increasingly concerned by the sheer amount of relentless advertising exhorting us all to gamble. Every commercial break was crammed to the gills with adverts which surely began to pall on many viewers by virtue of their repetition if nothing else.
There was even in these initially amusing commercials a truism to support the view that a fascination for gambling can take you over the edge. Consider the two characters in a life raft surrounded by sharks attempting to get at them. One man, not looking at a mobile phone is getting desperately concerned that his companion is so totally absorbed in a tennis match linked to betting that he is oblivious of the mortal danger he is in. Well, quite. Another version of this ad has the two men in a hut where a polar bear is trying to get in. A third involves a doomed spacecraft where one astronaut is utterly unconcerned as the controls go haywire.
When I first saw these ads, my somewhat dark sense of humour—indeed, I have to admit, the child in me—was tickled, especially since they are well acted and cleverly made. But as they were repeated ad nauseam, I became more and more dismayed and to be honest began to be rather attracted to the idea of puncturing the life raft, and opening the door to the bear to allow him in for a decent meal. Joking aside, it was my realisation that children whom we should encourage to watch sport would begin to think that this was an important part of enjoying sport.
Then we have a famous, somewhat laddish actor telling us that this is the club to be in; it is everywhere; it sees everything, he says, but then adds, as though daddy is watching, that we bet responsibly. Who is “we”, and how does he know? What he means is: like cigarette manufacturers, he is putting the health warning on the side of the packet while making his way to the bank.
Gambling as an addiction is easily acquired, and it is a terrible curse. Financially the victim becomes like the man in the boat or the spacecraft where everything is going wrong. He is plunging to his doom but all will be well if he can just get in another bet. Yet the makers of these commercials realise that they were focusing in on just what many of us—daddies, if you like—are really concerned about.
Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones is a medical doctor and neuroscience researcher working as a consultant psychiatrist in addictions. She has published two text books on pathological gambling. Henrietta is the founder and director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, based in Soho, London. She believes that we should have, “far more rigorous watersheds”, and that we should “remove all possibility of mixing gambling adverts and sports, as it gives a very mixed message to youngsters”.
Dr Bowden-Jones has seen the awful results of gambling addiction: ruined careers, broken families and the suicidal tendencies of those afflicted. And it is an affliction—the brain seeks ever more fixes, to use an opiate analogy, to be satisfied. As adults, we have the right to turn over—we do not have to watch. So it is really the potency of the concern about young people and children that is our focus here today.
I finish with a direct question to the Minister. Does not the sheer amount of unavoidable gambling advertising surrounding sports broadcasting in itself conflict with CAP guidelines?
I too add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, for introducing this important debate, which has such implications for young people in our country.
Gambling-related advertising poses a substantial risk of harm to children. I am grateful for the work that the Advertising Standards Agency does to regulate the industry, but I do not think that we have been either bold or creative enough in our efforts to protect our children and young people. As we have already heard, exceptions to current regulations allow adverts for bingo and sports betting before the 9 pm watershed, which means that children are now being exposed to record-breaking numbers of gambling-related advertisements. Whether or not they are specifically aimed at children, they are allowed to display footballers and other personalities and stars who may themselves be children, commending and glamorising it as a lifestyle.
According to Ofcom, between 2005 and 2012, the number of gambling-related adverts on TV increased from 90,000 to 1.4 million. In 2012, the average child watching TV saw 211 gambling-related ads per year. The problem is particularly linked to the exception in the current advertising rules that allows sports gambling companies to place ads during pre-watershed football matches. Two-thirds of ads for sports betting are shown pre-watershed. There is substantial evidence that that affects children’s behaviours, especially that of young boys. In the Gambling Commission’s most recent study, more than one-fifth of 11 to 15 year-old boys had spent their own money on a gambling activity in the week before the survey. That compares to just 11% of girls, and mirrors the fact that more men than women in this country are classed as problem gamblers. It is considerably higher than the levels of those who report drinking, smoking or taking drugs and the addictions associated with them.
Exposing young children, especially boys, to huge amounts of advertising, particularly during football matches but also during other games, is a risk to the population’s overall well-being. Allowing some kinds of advertising pre-watershed but not others sends out mixed messages to children and confusingly suggests that some kinds of gambling may carry fewer risks than others. Psychological research tells us that children are less able to make reasonable and appropriate judgments about advertising and are particularly vulnerable to exposure. It is one thing to advertise to adults, who are more able to make fully informed decisions about risk, and another entirely to expose children to this barrage of adverts.
Children need to be educated about gambling by families, schools and other responsible sources in the community. The Gambling Commission survey suggested reasons why children go in for gambling included a desire to make money, and because they thought it would be more fun or exciting.
As we all know, games of chance are no substitute for employment, and the enjoyment some people gain from gambling must be balanced with a knowledge of the substantial risk and responsibility involved for those who choose to play. Allowing children to be exposed to gambling adverts interferes with their ability to receive responsible, balanced messages about the risks of gambling.
Of course, the next frontier is gambling advertising online. More than 60% of 11 to 15 year-olds have seen gambling ads on social media, with a similar number seeing other online ads. I am anxious to hear what comments and analysis we will get from the gambling review on online advertising, and children in particular, but it is clear that betting companies are not doing enough to ensure that children do not see their ads. It is not enough that ads are not targeted at, or designed to appeal to, children. It would be better for children to not have to confront these ads at all, for their own safe development.
Both government and industry have begun to recognise the effect many forms of advertising have on young people. A recent editorial in the respected medical journal, the Lancet, called problem gambling a “public health concern”, saying that the UK has not met the,
“need to balance tax revenue with a duty of care to vulnerable members of society.”
Surely children are some of the most vulnerable and impressionable members of our society. The Government have rightly taken steps to ban cigarette companies from sponsoring sport, and restrict alcohol and junk food advertising targeted at children. The Football Association, recognising the problem that gambling has in the community, has ceased sponsorship deals with betting firms—including a £4 million contract with Ladbrokes—and does not allow betting firms to put sponsorship ads on children’s T-shirts. Nevertheless, further action must be taken to close loopholes and force betting firms to take more drastic action to protect children. We have already heard that recent legislation in Australia has banned gambling adverts during pre-watershed sporting events.
We all accept that betting is part of the life of our nation. Many people enjoy it and do it responsibly; nevertheless it seems to be a growing problem, which may reap a terrible harvest later on. I hope that the Government will be brave in acting to confront this problem in the upcoming review, for the sake of children and their families around our country.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, for bringing this very important debate to the House. I apologise in advance if what I am about to say repeats some of his points, or those of the eloquent noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who made some very good points.
I am sure that many of your Lordships will know of somebody who was addicted to gambling. Your Lordships will also know that gambling can bring devastation to family life and even lead to criminal offences and a complete destruction of a person’s life. Gambling is as addictive as alcohol or drugs. I am sure that people cleverer than me—psychologists, for example—will be able to explain to the House what it is that makes people want to gamble. We need to focus on what it is that lures young people into gambling.
Allow me to go quite a way back in time to the late 1960s and early 1980s—a time when there was no internet, no gambling advertising on TV and no scratchcards in newsagents, when, as I recall, all that was available was horseracing and dog racing, and when ordinary working-class people tried to supplement their income by gambling. They would hear of a win that was equivalent to a whole week’s wages—that was the attraction that lead to the addiction.
One thing we all know is that there are no bankrupt bookmakers, but there are many bankrupt gamblers. In the long term, gamblers never win—bookmakers always win.
Moving forward to the current arena, we have not only horseracing and dog racing, but things you can buy in newsagents such as scratchcards. We have online gambling, slot machine arcades and television advertising between sports events. Opportunity and awareness of gambling have made a giant leap. Unfortunately, gambling has been made easy for people. Gambling ventures stating that only people over the age of 18 are allowed, for example, to buy scratchcards, gamble online or go into slot machine arcades are fine, but the fact is children find a way of doing it.
Why are young people attracted to this? I guess again psychologists may tell you that it is brought about by the culture of the young person’s family, by the company they keep or maybe the fact that they feel they have no chance of getting a good a job but have a desire to get hold of money by gambling as opposed to something more terrible such as drug dealing. Their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters or uncles may be serial gamblers. As silly as it may sound, that young person should be able to see that it has not done them any good. The worst thing that could ever happen to anyone is to win, and to win something which represents a week’s wages or a year’s pocket money, for example. That will get the person hooked.
I believe that part of the school curriculum should not only be allocated to discussing the dangers of alcohol, drugs and smoking; added to that should be a message about gambling—a very strong message put out to the young people that there is no such thing as a rich gambler, but there are many rich bookmakers. You cannot win in the long term. If that message is put across to young people it may sink in that spending money in trying to win a fortune is a foolish thing to embark upon.
The adverts shown between football matches are incredible. They offer free bets, refunds on bets, and are repeated several times during a game. More offers are made at half time. In fact, the whole of the advertising slots during a game are taken up with gambling advertising. What amazes me is that the policy of TV companies seems to have changed. In my days of advertising on TV I was told that inside a three-minute slot of advertising you were not allowed to have two competitors in the same break. I am not sure whether this was something made up by the policymakers at the time, TV broadcasters or the regulators, but now there are several adverts from different organisations in the same slot. It looks like that rule has gone completely out of the window.
I have noted certain adverts on TV where I see the actor Ray Winstone as the lead character. They have recently started to add at the end of the advert “gamble responsibly”. These words are absolutely pathetic. At this point I clarify, if any of the media are looking in, that I am not accusing Mr Winstone of being pathetic, because he may come and thump me afterwards. It was clearly a useless attempt to pacify an authority that maybe complained. I do not know who that was—maybe Ofcom or the Advertising Standards Authority—but it is pathetically weak and totally inadequate.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, that the warnings about gambling are in no way strong enough or anywhere near or similar to those of the warnings of alcohol and cigarette smoke. The Government need to do something about stopping gambling television adverts that can be viewed by young people, the first being, although maybe not a solution, putting them on after 9 pm, after the watershed. No dispensation should be made for football that is played in the afternoon as it is my belief that these adverts are the major culprits that induce young people to gamble. Frankly, they are too clever and too alluring.
I move now to the internet, which is a massive can of worms of opportunities for gambling online. I do not personally have a solution for this, other than to ask the Government to intervene and to get a bit heavy with the likes of Facebook, Google and others on removing adverts for gambling accessibility for young people. I know that it is easier said than done but, digitally, they can do it by ensuring that no gambling adverts are displayed until after, say, 9 pm.
It is a difficult task to police the internet, but the Government have to step in. I go back to cigarettes: Governments across the world have done quite a good job of warning people of the dangers of cigarettes. We do not see any adverts for them on TV, on street hoardings or in magazines—and I do not see any adverts for them flashing up in front of my face on my computer screen on the internet. This proves conclusively that internet providers and search engine providers can do it if they want. I urge the Government to do exactly the same in respect of gambling as they did for cigarettes. Gambling is an addiction. Gambling ruins family lives. Gambling incites criminal activity.
I join others in thanking my noble friend Lord Chadlington for introducing this important debate. I was going to add “on a subject close to his heart” but, lest that be misinterpreted—as far as I know, he has never even bought a scratch card—I use this opportunity to pay tribute to his long and active association with the charity Action on Addiction, of which he was chairman between 1999 and 2008.
I have read quite widely in preparation for today’s debate and received input from a number of bodies from the industry, academia, the charitable sector and, of course, the extensive briefing notes from your Lordships’ Library, all of which serve to underline not only that this is a complex and perhaps underresearched field but that undertaking any research on the impact of gambling is methodologically challenging. Indeed, the Gambling Commission’s own research in 2016 found little evidence that advertising had a direct influence on gambling by children. Intuitively, however, one suspects that it is a lot more powerful than the research suggests, particularly since the very same report admitted that around 450,000 young people—almost 20% of the total cohort of 11 to 15 year-olds—gamble at least once a week and that the number is rising.
This is a field that is mutating before our eyes, so I wonder whether research methodology has kept pace. Tablet and mobile phones are now the most popular devices for going online, and we have witnessed an explosion of smartphone ownership in recent years—according to Ofcom, 79% of 12 to 15 year-olds now own one, up from only 69% two years ago. These devices have no watershed, and the ability to access gambling sites often requires only a tick in the box to confirm age as being over 18.
As a report by Demos observed last year, the whole online gambling ecosystem has changed. New influential voices with huge online followings are seen to promote gambling, and over 500 tipsters and affiliates identified by Demos share tips but fall outside any regulatory framework. Apps operating with digital currency and which look and behave like traditional gambling products also fall outside the gambling licensing laws because they do not yield cash prizes.
Research undertaken by Deakin University in Australia—which spends more per capita on gambling than any other country—shows quite clearly how young people become keen to gamble because of attractive advertising and its link to their favourite sport. Pervasive betting marketing when linked to sport is driving an unhealthy normalisation of gambling in children’s minds. It is not just the commercials that appear in the programme breaks, but everything from the hoardings around pitches to the sponsorship of team shirts.
Professor Cassidy’s research in the UK reinforces this view. There were more instances of gambling advertising during live sporting events broadcast in the UK than were recorded by similar studies in Australia, which has a watershed of 8.30 pm. The majority of these were for online gambling viewed on billboards. During three episodes of the BBC’s “Match of the Day”—screened after the watershed, but of course repeated on Sunday mornings and at will on iPlayer—764 instances of gambling advertising were identified. In similar Sky broadcasts the number was only 524. She concludes that the,
“exclusion of produced commercials from public service broadcasts does not prevent audiences from being exposed to large volumes of advertising”.
She adds that this has become,
“part of the fabric of sporting arena”.
I, too, do not believe that the strategically placed “Gamble Responsibly” adverts can have much discernible effect in challenging perceptions that gambling is as cool as the sport it supports.
Evidence suggests that the younger the age at which problem gambling develops, the greater will be the consequences and the severity of gambling in later life. Therefore, I welcome the two new research studies commissioned by the independent charity GambleAware. The first seeks to understand better the effect of gambling, marketing and advertising in all its forms on children and young people. The second will examine the effectiveness of gambling-blocking software.
The Australian Deakin report suggests that the burden of proof should be on the gambling industry to show that its marketing does not influence risky patterns of behaviour. This approach is now echoed by the UK regulator, which states in its principles that where there is a gambling product with a risk of harm, it will apply the precautionary principle and have the product removed. We must all hope that, in the concluding words on the Deakin report,
“the idea of using sport and advertising to promote this betting behaviour to vulnerable young people will go the same way as the tobacco industry and the dodo”.
My Lords, I too appreciate the work of researchers and others who have given us facts and figures on the present situation with gambling. I could repeat, as others have done, the startling facts with regard to this situation. However, there are different levels of gambling.
May I promote my own town of Llandudno? Noble Lords can visit it at any time. It has at least three or four amusement arcades. They can walk with me to the pier head, where they can roll a penny and try to get two pennies instead of one, or there is a cabinet with a claw coming down and noble Lords might be lucky and get a teddy bear to take home with them. We do other things in Llandudno, I am sure, but that is the simple gambling that we all used to enjoy as kids. When we went on Sunday school trips to Butlin’s, oh boy, we thought that we were going over the top. We did, but it did not affect us very much at all. As I say, there are different levels of gambling.
Advertising has an effect—of course it does—but it is not alone in encouraging gambling. There is also the family influence. As one goes to various parts of the UK, especially those which do not have the healthiest economies, one sees the gambling shop, which represents hope. Once we overcome the period of austerity, we might also develop a better way to tackle gambling.
Like others present, I remember when there was a bookie on the street corner who had the information and took the bets. Then it became more acceptable. Was the introduction of premium bonds an inducement to gambling? Then, of course, we had the National Lottery. Do noble Lords remember that at eight o’clock on a Saturday night there would be great silence throughout the nation as people listened to the numbers being read out, whether they were two, five, seven or whatever? Gambling had taken a hold and become acceptable. It was not just a little flutter on the Grand National enjoyed by many families. Have the Government sponsored the introduction of another form of gambling, and has that had an undesirable effect?
Gambling is reasonable and acceptable: Dad and Mam do it and Uncle Jack once won something on a premium bond, but is it acceptable? Are we not ourselves responsible for influencing children to gamble? We have to move on and see whether it is possible to exert a different influence in the home. That is why I so appreciate the suggestion that education about gambling should be on the curriculum in schools, as well as teaching about alcohol and tobacco and so on. We must take this issue very seriously, as many lives are ruined because of it.
I once paid a visit to Las Vegas. Methodist ministers should not go there, but an American airline had said, “For an extra pound, you can go from Seattle to Las Vegas”, and I went and I saw the magnificent buildings there. One evening, outside the one that I was staying at was a guy who looked very respectable. He wanted to sell me his Canon camera because he knew that, if he had that extra money, he might be able to win back all the money that he had lost. Gambling gives people hope and it becomes an addiction. A moment ago it was mentioned that the younger a child is when he begins to gamble, the more likely it is that he will settle into the routine of gambling.
Perhaps I may turn to some facts and figures. Children and young people are vulnerable to advertising—of course they are, and that is why there is so much gambling. We have been told that £312 million a year is now spent on advertising by the gambling industry.
There has also been a change in the bookmakers. I see bookmakers in very unattractive locations—some railways stations now have a bookie’s office, including the one at Chester, which I go via when I go home to north Wales. It is very easy for people to begin gambling, but the problem is that children are also influenced to do so. It is supposed to be easy money.
There has also been a change from the old style of gambling through a bookmaker to online gambling, which has been mentioned several times this morning. Many children now have mobile phones and apps. How do you regulate gambling on a mobile phone? That is something that we have not yet come to terms with. Ofcom says that 24% of eight to 11 year-olds and 69% of 12 to 15 year-olds now own a smartphone, usage of which may be difficult to monitor. It also says that 16% of the children surveyed had spent their own money on gambling the week before the survey took place.
Existing legislation does not adequately address these challenges. Moreover, research examining the relationship between social media and gambling speaks of changes to the “gambling ecosystem”. There has been a big change since the Gambling Act 2005, and the current legislation does not tackle it.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in this debate. I am not suggesting that we dictate to children how they should spend their pocket money, saying, “Don’t spend it in that way”, but the ball is in the Government’s court and they have a responsibility, because the consequences of addiction to gambling are horrendous.
My Lords, I am very pleased to be able to speak in today’s debate and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, for bringing this important issue before the House, and indeed, for his excellent, informative speech. Like other noble Lords, I apologise in advance for the fact that my own will include some inevitable repetition.
Last year the Gambling Commission published the latest figures on how many young people are gambling, where young people are defined as 11 to 15 year-olds. The data suggest that more young people are gambling than smoking or drinking. The overall rate of gambling among 11 to 15 year-olds is around 16%. This figure compares to 5% of 11 to 15 year-olds who have smoked and 8% who have drunk alcohol in the last week, while 6% have taken drugs in the last month.
While the commission rightly points out that this is a similar number of young people to previous years, it is also telling us that more needs to be done generally about problem gambling. Indeed, on Tuesday of this week the Gambling Commission issued advice to undergraduate students to ensure that students avoided debt and missing lectures as its latest survey reveals that two-thirds of students gambled in the last month. That compares with just 48% of the population generally. One in eight students missed lectures due to gambling.
As long ago as November 2013 Ofcom reported that there had been a 600% increase in television gambling advertising since the implementation of the Gambling Act 2005. No doubt today the figure is even higher. As the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, said—I think we would all agree—this is a very concerning situation.
In my speech, however, I wish to focus particularly on the challenges of gambling advertising which is located online. This is particularly important given that last year’s Ofcom survey of media stated that for the first time children are spending more time online than in front of the TV, which is especially true of 12 to 15 year-olds. I stress that in highlighting this development I am not seeking to suggest that there is no challenge in relationship to television advertising and that we must now all focus on online adverts. What I am saying is that both are important. Children still spend many hours watching television.
The Gambling Commission’s November 2016 report showed that 63% of 11 to 15 year-olds have seen gambling adverts on social media, 24% more than once a week; and 57% on other websites, 19% more than once a week. Nine per cent of young people follow gambling companies on social media. Of these, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans has already said, one in three has spent their own money on gambling activity in the past seven days, making them twice as likely to have done so as children who do not follow any gambling companies online.
The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling, in the 2015 edition of its code for responsible gambling, said that its code applies to social media, as does the CAP code on non-broadcast material. However, its document states that,
“it is understood that the government intends, in co-operation with the industry and other stakeholders, to undertake further work to ensure that under 18s are suitably protected when using social media”.
This constitutes a significant undertaking. When the Minister responds, will she provide an update to the House on what the Government have done in relation to this important commitment and, specifically, what targets have been set? If she is unable to provide details today, will she write to Members participating in this debate with the information and place a copy of her letter in the Library?
The young people surveyed said that the advertising did not have an effect on them but, as reported in the results,
“the survey does not uncover the potential subconscious effects of advertising and social media posts which may or may not be influencing young people’s gambling behaviour”.
To that I add the impact of gambling advertising during sports matches, either directly during the programmes or indirectly through the clothing the players wear, a point mentioned by many other speakers.
I know that the Government and the Gambling Commission take the involvement of children in gambling seriously and have acted against unlicensed websites. In 2016, the individuals behind the FutGalaxy website were prosecuted because:
“The defendants knew that the site was used by children and that their conduct was illegal, but they turned a blind eye in order to achieve substantial profits”.
The effect of online gambling on children was rightly described by the court as “horrific” and “serious”. However, this case demonstrated, in the words of the Gambling Commission,
“the significant role social media plays in promoting these unlicensed gambling websites seeking to associate themselves with video gaming”.
I would be grateful if the Minister could update the House on any further work that the Government and the commission are doing specifically on the links between advertising on social media and underage gambling on e-sports. How is the Gambling Commission monitoring the number and depth of involvement of UK children and young people, the sums of money being gambled and the type of websites involved?
I am sure that the Minister will tell us that this is all going to be addressed in the response to the Government’s Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures, which I understand is to be published this autumn; I sincerely hope that it is. This is a connected generation so I hope that there will be read-across to the Government’s Green Paper on internet safety, so that there is joined-up thinking on how to ensure that children and young people are safe on the internet.
My Lords, I want to start, as other noble Lords have done, by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, for initiating this important debate, and I can assure noble Lords that, having become so used to being able to speak for only five or six minutes in any debate, the news that the maximum time limit has been reduced from 13 minutes to 12 minutes has caused me no concern at all.
The statistics already mentioned by other noble Lords relating to the number of children gambling are concerning to say the least. Although the Gambling Commission reports that the rate of young people participating has remained static over recent times, its finding that 16% of 11 to 15 year-olds had spent their own money gambling in the week prior to the survey was extraordinary. Even more extraordinary was the fact that the most popular form of gambling in this age group included betting through gaming machines. How are these young people getting anywhere near gaming machines of high stakes? Clearly, improvements have to be made in this area. GamCare has reviewed research which suggests, as others have said, that the younger the age at which problem gambling develops, the greater the consequences and severity of gambling will be in later life. This is why we have age limits on gambling, as well as protective licensing systems and codes of practice on advertising.
As your Lordships are aware, the Gambling Act 2005 sets out three objectives, one of which is the explicit protection of children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling. Another of the Act’s objectives is to ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way. The area about which I am especially concerned and in which I believe the law fails to meet those two central objectives is the unregulated realm of tipsters, affiliates, and affiliates who pose as tipsters.
For those who may not be aware, an affiliate or tipster is a person whose sole aim is to get people to sign up to betting accounts, for which they will receive a fee from the betting company of usually around £30. An affiliate or tipster also makes money from a percentage of “revenues” attached to that account for the life of the account, even if a person uses the account for many years down the line. To increase account activity, affiliates and tipsters will post or tweet betting tips and all sorts of other content on the internet to encourage play, and because they earn their money from a percentage of gambling revenue, this means that they are making money from a person’s losses as well as advising them on how to bet. I do not think that I would follow the advice of someone who profits when I lose.
These individuals not only advertise gambling but actively and relentlessly encourage as many people as possible, regardless of age or vulnerability, to spend their money taking up their unproven tips via any attention-grabbing methods they can think of and, in many cases, by methods for which regulated mainstream advertisers would be reprimanded. I believe they are dangerous to the gambling industry and particularly to young people because they operate almost exclusively on social media—Twitter, Facebook and the like—which, of course, are so popular with the young and have no watershed. Such activities do not clearly fall within current regulatory frameworks as tipsters are considered not to be gambling operators. Neither are their posts or messages classed officially as adverts, so they circumvent the Advertising Standards Authority and the Gambling Commission. Three things are clear: tipsters are advertising gambling; it is meaningfully unchecked; and it can have dangerous consequences to all gamblers but particularly the vulnerable and the young.
A Demos study last year found that a person who has signed up to or follows a tipster, affiliate or an affiliate masquerading as a tipster is very likely to have signed up to a high number of similar accounts. A spokesman for the study commented that if someone follows one of these social-media tipster accounts they are likely to be following very high numbers of similar accounts. He said—I apologise for the poor grammar—that,
“this means users like this could potentially be swept up by a torrent of betting information which could encourage them to become problem gamblers ... If you’re following 40 or 50 gambling accounts and yet you still turn to Twitter to communicate with your friends or to Facebook to find out what’s going on in the world, you’re going to be constantly inundated with tips and with encouragement and with success stories that are being put out by betting affiliates. If I had to guess I’d say there’s a potential risk for someone who likes to gamble of getting really a bit too far stuck into this kind of thing, by this constant barrage of recommendations and tips”.
That makes a lot of sense and is a tremendous cause for concern.
The Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures is currently under way. Is this issue being covered within that body of work? Would my noble friend the Minister undertake to investigate tipster and affiliate activity in general, particularly in relation to the effects they have on children and young people? It would also be interesting to discover the levels of involvement and encouragement betting companies have with tipsters and affiliates. I would be interested to know what percentage of betting companies’ revenues are paid out to these affiliates and tipsters, and how widespread their use and influence really is.
There have been reports that because traditional online gambling adverts have become more expensive, it has encouraged betting firms to explore other imaginative ways to reach potential customers, often using third parties to harvest people’s data. This must be looked into and subjected to the usual social responsibility standards, as traditional advertising activity would be. As legislators, we are supposed to promote responsible gambling and protect vulnerable people. More needs to be done to regulate tipsters and affiliates so they work in a responsible and transparent way, more in keeping with the gambling industry’s aims of counterbalancing the promotion of products with the protection of consumers. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I also express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, for raising this important issue. It will become increasingly important and troubling as the gambling industry develops.
I was prompted to speak partly by the fact that I have received instructions recently to act in a number of cases brought by pathological or problem—ie, addicted—gamblers in respect of massive losses sustained after they attempted to limit the damage done to themselves by that addiction by “self-excluding”, which means saying to the bookmakers, “I can’t help myself but I don’t want to bet any more”. For obvious reasons, I will not say anything about the detail of those cases, some of which are ongoing, but the work I have done on them brought to my attention one or two aspects of the problem on which I will say a few words.
The evidence from the research of neurologists and psychiatrists into gambling addiction is at a very early stage. However, there is already evidence based on brain scans and other work done by neurologists which strongly suggests that a susceptibility to gambling addiction is linked to certain chemical states in the brain, about which the vulnerable person can do nothing whatever. That tallies with one’s own experience of life: we all know that most people can have a flutter on the National, and maybe a few other flutters as the year goes on, without being in peril. But we also all know that there are people who fall literally into mortal peril because of their inability to control their gambling.
One of your Lordships used the term “epidemic”, while acknowledging that the evidence for what one might call an epidemic in this area is at present sparse. I would tend to suggest that some evidence is now emerging that this country is facing what might properly be referred to as an epidemic. The Gambling Commission publishes figures drawn from surveys into problem gambling which reveal the following: the rate of problem gambling in England, based on a 2012 survey, was 0.5%; the rate in Scotland, based on a 2015 survey, was 0.7%; and the rate of it in Wales, based on a slightly later and therefore very recent survey, was 1.1%. Even if I could think of any reasons why the incidence of problem gambling should be higher in Scotland and Wales, I would not voice them in your Lordships’ House, although the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, may wish to comment on the last statistic. However, one notices a very striking thing: that those figures have been going up, and fast, in the past four to five years.
In working on the cases I mentioned, I also became acquainted with a rather odd league table. It sets out the positions of various nations by reference to the average amount lost by citizens per head. The country at the head of that league table, by a significant margin, is Australia—the country in which the liberalisation of the gambling laws, which we saw in this country by way of the Gambling Act 2005, took place back in the 1980s. That was earlier than in any other country in the world. There are two or three Scandinavian countries close to the top of those charts, possibly because there is not much else to do in the winter months there, while the UK is rising fast. The average sum lost per head here has more or less doubled over the past eight to 10 years and we are now in the unhappy position of rising in the charts. I think that we have reached seventh or eighth.
Ultimately, the nature of the problem lies in the fact that, entirely lawfully, gambling providers—otherwise known as bookmakers—increasingly make a very large amount of money out of the gambling habits of the British people. I was struck by the fact that in the most recent six-month figures for the consortium formed by the merger of Ladbrokes and Coral, the return from the digital division of that conglomerate has risen by 18% year-on-year. The digital division relates to activities such as gambling on smartphones. It is clear from that rise, and other material to which I have had access, that bookmakers are doing particularly well now because gambling is so accessible by way of smartphones and tablets, in the way that other Members have described. The annual loss sustained by UK punters across the board to September 2016 has been estimated at £13.8 billion. Finally on the topic of a possible epidemic, I refer to a very recent study on the incidence of gambling among students which makes very worrying reading indeed and tends to suggest that the advertisements that we are currently debating have had an effect on the attitudes of young people.
Why is this happening? I can take this shortly to avoid repetition. One reason is the liberalisation of the gambling industry that took place pursuant to the 2005 Act, an Act about which I think regret has quite recently been expressed by one of the Ministers involved in its enactment.
The other, and much more fundamental, reason is that gambling has become so astonishingly easy to access. I do not know whether any noble Lords fall into this sad category, but those who in the 1970s were interested in having a flutter would find that if they visited a betting shop they would not be able to look in because the windows would be frosted. It was against the law to see what was going on in there, and that conveyed, rightly we might think, that something transgressive was taking place within. If you were sad enough to want to go to a casino, you would have to drive up to Soho or some other metropolis, deposit your passport and wait for 24 hours before they would let you in. It was a significant, if not entirely comprehensive, deterrent. Now our children can at the touch of a button using a debit card, or when they get a bit older a credit card, deposit as much as they want on literally hundreds of different websites, I should think, and immediately start playing the roulette tables, online blackjack, online bingo and, I note, a number of other exotic games which I cannot even identify by name, and which seem—certainly to my eye—to have been designed to appeal to young people. Things have changed, and changed massively, and the problems that have caused the noble Lord to raise this debate are going to get markedly worse before they get better.
Some speakers have spoken of the advertisements that one now has to watch if you want to watch the rugby in New Zealand, the tennis in America or whatever other sporting event takes your fancy. The tone of those advertisements is troubling. There is the one featuring Ray Winstone, who masquerades as a junior member of the Kray family while providing a running commentary on the activities of a lot of rather glamorous-looking young people who, oddly, are travelling all over the world. There they are up in the Arctic, there they are in the Australian outback, there they are in New York and all the time they are locked to their mobile phone gambling on something like the number of corners or throw-ins in a match between two teams in the Premiership or whatever it may be. That is presented as the way to live and then, as has been pointed out, a small sop is offered to the regulator in the form of a statement that, at that particular gambling operator, “We bet responsibly”. The first problem with that is that that is a contradiction in terms; the charm of gambling lies in the fact that it is irresponsible, so I wish that phrase would simply disappear. The second specific problem is that the statement “We bet responsibly” is immediately followed by the name of the gambling provider in question, a name which appears to be designed to suggest that the proper approach to this recreation is to bet every single day of the year.
I am taking more time than other speakers, but I will certainly avoid running over the 12 minutes. There is another advertisement which is deeply troubling. It depicts an unhappy young man who, one infers, has very few if any friends, and suddenly his life takes a turn for the better because the characters in the virtual casino which he can access on his computer start singing, dancing and talking to him, and then his cup runs over because he achieves a big win on his mobile telephone. There are many further advertisements of this type, which appears to be aimed at young people.
The enticements now placed before potential gamblers are deeply troubling. Almost every advertisement somewhere is offering what is called a free bet—but if you look into the matter, it is not a free bet, because to get the bonus or the advantage in question you have to stake a large amount of real money. The so-called advertorials, which have been referred to by a number of speakers, are a deeply troubling development. Those of your Lordships who did not pick up the article in the Times yesterday about a recent ruling of the ASA on such a case should do so, because it is extremely shocking.
What is to be done? Obviously there are no easy solutions. No one has suggested, and it would be absurd to do so, that gambling should be banned. That would get one nowhere. For obvious commercial reasons, it does not make sense to rely on the industry regulating itself. That would be naive. I would make three proposals.
First, consistent with much of what has been said by others, the vices and dangers of gambling should form part of the curriculum at our schools. There is no reason whatever why children should be warned about the hazards of sex, tobacco, alcohol and drugs but not about gambling. They could be acquainted with the risks of gambling quite conveniently in their maths lessons. Secondly, increased and compulsory contributions from the industry to GambleAware should be provided for. Thirdly, I would like to see health warnings attached to all gambling advertisements. If cigarette manufacturers can be forced to place a skull and crossbones on cigarette packets, I see no reason why gambling advertisers should not draw the attention of potential gamblers to the fact that, in the long run, the bookmakers always win and the gamblers always lose.
My Lords, I am deeply grateful for the consent I have been given to speak briefly in the gap here. I should declare interests in that I have twice earned my living from gambling: once as the chairman, executive chairman and chief executive of a chain of casinos and the other time as the chairman of the Jockey Club’s 14 principal racecourses, the latter of which gave me all the evidence that horses are very sensible creatures, because they never bet on people. I wholly support this debate and had a very sleepless night last night, asking myself why I had not put my name down to speak.
I was infuriated 12 or so days ago, just before we came back for this September session, watching the last day of the England v West Indies test which England lost. There were two amazing innovations that afternoon which I had never seen before. First, the Sky television channel—which of course can have no possible financial interest in this matter—had started to introduce the bookmakers’ odds on the changing position of the teams to win the match, given in conjunction with the support of their expert commentators and their thoughts on whether England could still win or not. The odds on the screen that afternoon were still quoting England at 8:1 to win at 3 pm, when we were clearly dead in the water already, so any money was a gift to a bookmaker in those terms. What right does a major television channel with a national event like a test match have to be encouraging betting and putting out odds which it is manipulating on screen? This is simply dreadful.
What was also terrible that afternoon was that it all moved so slowly that there were a whole range of new advertising slots. One ad came up seven times in two hours, including on two occasions twice in the same three-minute spell. I have to admit this ad was hilariously funny: a footballer trying to take the last, definitive spot kick to win a major championship—probably the European Cup or the World Cup. His shot hits the crossbar and shoots up in the air, whereupon the goalkeeper turns and rises to celebrate with his colleagues the triumph of winning the cup. As his back is turned, the ball comes back down to earth, does a leg-break which Shane Warne would be jealous of and goes into the net—the winners and losers have reversed their positions. It is a hilariously funny ad and I have watched it many times, but it has a very dangerous subliminal message. It is effectively saying, if you a gambler you can rely on the Archangel Gabriel sitting on a cloud up there to look after you: he will catch the ball and turn your defeat into a victory, so gambling is safe because miracles happen to protect you. That is what a child is going to think if he sees that ad as many times as I did; seven times in an afternoon.
We have a very serious problem here, much more than this brief debate can possibly address, and we have to stop this nonsense. It is awful; it is undermining of a mentality and attitude of responsibility. How can you influence children when they are seeing this stuff? I can watch that ad many times, because it is hilarious, and so will they, but the message is the same, all the time: trust in a miracle and you will be a successful gambler.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, for securing this debate and introducing the topic so well. The words, “Poacher turned gamekeeper” popped into my mind, but he elegantly evaded that charge and spoke persuasively from the heart on a matter which I know has engaged many noble Lords who participated in what has been a very good debate. It is also very nice to be opposite the noble Baroness, Lady Chisholm of Owlpen, again: I think we both thought last year that we would not be doing it, but here we are again. I have news for her, because I want to introduce our new Front-Bench lead on DCMS, the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, who is still at the learner stage but will be flying solo from October with support from me—but, I hope, very little. I hope the whole House will welcome him and give him its support.
The key questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, slightly rephrased, were: are we happy about the current amount of gambling advertising when children are watching television; does what we see honestly portray gambling as dangerous and damaging to society, as we know to be the case; is gambling increasingly being put forward as glamorous and socially enhancing; and are we being encouraged to think that it is a natural part of sport, leisure and even our family life? He asked what we are going to do about it. I agree with most of his analysis and I will say more in support of it as I go, though I will go further in some areas, picking up on points made by other noble Lords, and I have additional suggestions for the Government at the end.
The noble Lord, Lord Sugar, said he had never met a failed bookie. I have one example to share with him. I live in a house that was once owned by a bookmaker. The local gossip is that he made a killing on the National one year, invested it in our property and moved out there. He then divorced his wife, put her in one part of the house, remarried and sold off the rest of the estate, which allowed us to buy what was left—just about—which was just the house, and finance his lifestyle, moving away from bookmaking into property development. He died a broken man, unfortunately; things went wrong for him, which is why we are in that house. So there is a moral there, but I take the noble Lord’s point.
The issues that need to be addressed in this debate are the review commissioned by the Secretary of State; the narrow question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, about the proportion of gambling ads on commercial television and their impact on children; and the effectiveness of current regulatory structures to protect children. However, other ways in which children get exposed to gambling have been raised by noble Lords. We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Trevethin and Oaksey, for his comments about the evidence that now exists for gambling as an addiction. The key point that has emerged from this debate is that the public policy issue we need to crack is not so much the amount of gambling advertising on commercial television, but what package of measures will best deal, head-on, with the protection of children and vulnerable people who become problem gamblers. This is on the assumption, which I support, that problem gambling is a substanceless addiction. Problem gambling is characterised by the same issues of dependence as alcohol and drugs and leads to the same devastating impacts on personal relationships, health and society. It is a public health problem which needs attention and resources, and until we do this, we are simply applying a sticking plaster to a rather grievous wound.
There is an elephant in the room, in that, until we get the review we are in the dark as to what the Government intend. I commend the Secretary of State for calling for this review and I have great hopes for it, but it is not with us. Also, it is not a Green Paper or a White Paper; it is just a review and there may be a problem, in that there will be a considerable delay while whatever policy implications teased out in the report are considered and consulted on. I hope that when the Minister replies she can not only shed some light on the thinking in the report, but confirm when it is to be published and reassure us that that the issues raised today will be covered.
Turning to the proportion of gambling ads on commercial television, my feeling is that the case for a causal relationship between advertising and gambling has not been made. However, the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, spoke for us all when he said that until they can make their own decisions and personal choices, children—I would add vulnerable adults—should not be unduly influenced by inappropriate advertising on traditional media, or increasingly, as we have heard, on social media. Surely, we have to protect and, very importantly, educate children until they can make informed and balanced lifestyle decisions for themselves. Is the current situation satisfactory? I do not think so. Could schools do more? Of course they could. As the noble Lord said, a majority of people in the UK think gambling should not be encouraged, that it is dangerous to family life and too easy to do online and by phone.
The industry relies very heavily on the Ofcom figures mentioned already, which showed that in 2012 children saw, on average, just over four gambling advertisements each week on television. Common sense suggests that that is a gross underestimate. In any case, companies would not advertise if it did not work: as the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, told us, budgets for advertising in the gambling industry reached £312 million in 2016, a 63% rise since 2012. Of this, about half was accounted for by television commercials, but by far the largest increase, as we have heard, was in online and other advertising. As the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Hindhead, warned us, we have this thing called affiliate marketing, which works very heavily against the situation we want and requires significant attention.
I think that the question of the watershed was first raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans. It is obviously true that this is less effective in its operation simply because the way television is now consumed has changed so much, but he is right to point to mixed messages in the way advertising operates pre and post-watershed, particularly around live sport. Excepting bingo from the rule about not showing such adverts before the watershed definitely needs to be looked at again—bingo is not classified as gambling, when it clearly is—and sports betting adverts themselves need to be looked at very carefully.
What should we do? The knee-jerk reaction would be to try to go back to the pre-2007 days and ban the advertising of gambling pre-watershed, but I have some problems with that. I do not think there is a causal relationship, as I have said—I do not think that seeing one or more gambling ads makes you a problem gambler—but there is a correlation and experts tell us that the damage done is not negligible. I agree with the ASA that if a product is not illegal, or prohibited for good reason, companies should be able to advertise it. However, this is not an unconstrained right where it would fuel addiction. More needs to be done, therefore, to balance the adverts for gambling with better awareness of the damage that gambling can wreak. Signposting help is also required and we should think seriously about the idea that, for every advert broadcast around a sporting event, there has to be a balancing message showing where help can be obtained and pointing out the dangers, as I think is going to happen in Australia.
I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, for mentioning the very interesting paper from the anthropology department at Goldsmiths, University of London, in which Professor Rebecca Cassidy points out that although we have been talking up to now about commercial television, public service channel broadcasts of football highlights, which do not include formal advertisement breaks, are none the less completely saturated with gambling ads and advertisements for other risky products. She made the following points, which I think are important. There was more advertising of gambling, alcohol and fatty foods during sporting highlights broadcasts on the BBC than there were during live broadcasts of football on Sky. Across both kinds of broadcast, online gambling constituted the majority of brands advertised. The majority of all advertising seen while watching both highlights and live matches was for online gambling, mainly seen on pitch-side billboards. There is a lack of responsible messaging and counteradvertising across both kinds of broadcasts. Although not directly the subject of today’s debate, this needs to be picked up by the Government and I hope the Minister will respond to these points.
Professor Cassidy also notes in her report—this was picked up by other noble Lords—that children are wearing replica shirts which advertise alcohol and gambling, although the voluntary codes say that this should not happen. It is clear from her watching of matches and reporting on them that children, apparently under 18, are wearing replica kits advertising alcohol and gambling. For instance, the Everton shirt advertises Chang beer, and Swansea is supported by BetEast. This, again, needs a lot of attention. It is not directly related to the commercial advertising but it is still getting the message across that somehow sport and gambling are intertwined, they are not a problem, and that there is something glamorous about alcohol or sports betting being involved in the sport we are watching. We need to do more in this area.
I now turn briefly to the structures around the regulatory area. I have previously shared with your Lordships’ House a principled view that where the Government have established a regulatory structure, it should be done by a properly constituted body, not a private company. Previous examples have included the BBFC. Here, we are talking about public trust and reassurance that the area we are concerned about is being regulated properly. The present structure does not work. There is absolutely no doubt that the ASA has done a good job up until now, but surely what matters is getting it right for the future.
Now that the BBC has Ofcom as a regulator, the press and the advertising industry are the only remaining self-regulators in that most important area of our life—information—and we have seen what vested interests are doing to stifle attempts to reform press regulation. Leveson analysed the insufficiencies of self-regulation in his excellent report on the press. In a debate last year, the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, commented that those also applied to advertising, and I support her. The ASA is not a government agency; it is not a statutory body, and its work is not subject to parliamentary process. It is funded by the advertising industry through the levy collected by the Advertising Standards Board of Finance—ASBOF. The chair of the ASA is appointed largely by ASBOF. The codes of practice are written by an industry committee, which shares an executive with the ASA. The ASA is not subject to freedom of information requests. Three industry panels advise the CAP and the ASA. ASA is not accountable to anyone outside the industry; it is hermetically sealed. It is time to look very carefully and change this system.
In conclusion, where should the Government go now on this issue? They must think hard about whether there should be any gambling advertising around live sport before the 9 pm watershed. They need to think harder about the way in which children are interacting with that and the messages they are actually—not allegedly—receiving. We should look again at advertising on football shirts. Such advertising should be banned and should not be shown on television; it seems to align the wrong impulses and children will not see the difference unless it is stopped. I am thinking in particular of replica shirts, which should not show adverts for gambling or harmful products.
We need to look at the way in which online advertising is changing and how it is targeting gambling and other harmful products. Again, the problem is the reach to children and those who might be vulnerable to addiction. We should reform the regulatory structure. It is really important to think about the balance. We do not want to stop advertising. We want to make sure that it is properly balanced, so there must be warnings and signposting. The current taglines do not seem strong enough and do not properly explain the dangers of gambling’s addictive nature. As the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, said, if an advertisement does happen to be seen by a child, that child should be alerted to the dangers and risks involved. There needs to be much more education about gambling in the school curriculum—maybe maths classes are a way of getting into that—and much more funding for gambling research. GambleAware does a fantastic job but it needs to be supported.
I have two final points for the Minister’s consideration and delectation. There are still issues about the role gambling plays in the provision of fair sport and too many instances of match-fixing. The regulatory environment and the legal framework are still not satisfactory. We tried to deal with this in the House before but were not successful, so I hope the Government are taking that on board. There is a much broader issue. Gambling gets a free ride from sport. Gambling works only if the sport in question is widely televised and broadcast. Yet gambling makes very little contribution to sport itself. Is it not time to think again about sports rights and a way to ask gambling to contribute more to those who wish to get into sport—at the grass roots? We should look at that very seriously.
My Lords, this has been a most informative and interesting debate, and I thank my noble friend Lord Chadlington for bringing it and allowing us to discuss these important issues.
As the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, mentioned, for millions of people gambling is an enjoyable leisure activity. We all remember as children putting our pennies in the slot and those claws coming down. In a way, that was a good thing for me because I never won anything, so that put me off gambling from a very young age.
The Gambling Act 2005 allows licensed gambling to be offered and advertised. But the same Act makes it clear that this subject has essential objectives. Gambling must be kept free of crime, kept fair and open, and the vulnerable must, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Chadlington and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, be protected. Protecting children from being harmed or exploited by gambling is one of the core objectives of the Act and a priority for the Government. As the right reverend Prelate mentioned, children are among the most vulnerable, and must be protected.
There are already strict controls on the content of gambling adverts, whether or not they are on television. Operators must comply with the advertising codes of practice, which are regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority. The ASA acts on complaints and proactively checks the media to take action against misleading, harmful or offensive advertisements. The codes include many provisions to protect children and vulnerable adults from harm. For example, gambling adverts must not appeal particularly to children or young people, especially by reflecting youth culture. They must not exploit the susceptibilities or inexperience of children, young people or other vulnerable people. It is also forbidden to show or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm. The rules apply to all forms of advertising, including social media.
The gambling industry also has its own code for socially responsible advertising. This bans gambling advertising on TV before 9 pm, except for bingo and lotteries, and advertising sports betting around televised sporting events. So it is forbidden to target adverts at children. It would also be a waste of money. Children are not allowed to participate in most forms of gambling, and it is an offence to invite a child to gamble. The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, mentioned betting shops being so prevalent. There are strict controls to prevent children from gambling both in premises and online, via the Gambling Commission’s licence conditions. Where there is a failure to prevent underage gambling, the commission will take regulatory or criminal action.
As my noble friend Lord Chadlington mentioned, the Gambling Commission published a survey of children’s gambling behaviour in November last year. While 16% had gambled in the previous week, most of the activities involved were legal—for example betting with friends. Children’s participation in gambling has remained relatively static in the last five years and has declined since 2007. No more than 1% of all 11 to 15 year-olds surveyed said that adverts for gambling companies had prompted them to start gambling for the first time. But this is no reason to be complacent. Importantly, as many noble Lords have said, we need to look at what happens when children become young adults and are able to gamble. Recent figures published by the Gambling Commission showed a problem gambling rate of 1.9% among young men aged 16 to 24, compared to 1.5% for men overall, and 0.8% for the general population. We take these issues seriously and the forthcoming review, which I will come to, is looking at social responsibility measures.
The right reverend Prelate mentioned the glamorisation of gambling. The advertising codes specifically prohibit a range of approaches which might exploit the susceptibilities of young men. For example, gambling adverts must not suggest that gambling is a rite of passage or offers escape from educational concerns. It must not be linked to toughness or resilience, and it must not show people who are, or appear to be, under 25.
There is certainly much more gambling advertising on television than there was a decade ago. Before the Gambling Act came into force in 2007, only bingo and lotteries could advertise on TV. Liberalisation led to rapid growth, especially as online gambling expanded. TV advertising is measured in impacts—one person seeing one advert. A major Ofcom report showed that gambling advertising impacts rose more than fivefold for adults between 2005 and 2012, and more than threefold for children.
To bring the picture up to date, the number of gambling adverts on TV seen by children and young people—16 to 24 year-olds—continued to rise until 2013. It has declined in every year since and, in 2016, the average child saw 25% fewer gambling adverts than they did in 2012. Those figures will be published with other gambling review evidence in the autumn. But why is there a decline? The reason, as the Ofcom research showed, is that children are spending more time online, as my noble friend Lord Chadlington said.
Of course, the use of social media, and advertising via social media sites, has also grown very significantly for all age groups since 2007. Importantly, the review asked for evidence on protection around gambling advertising in general, not just television. Online gambling advertising is also subject to the advertising codes and must not be targeted at children. The Committee of Advertising Practice published guidance this year on responsible targeting of age-restricted material. The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 brought all online gambling sites under the remit of the Gambling Commission. Both land-based and online sectors are subject to the same robust standards of regulation; they must adhere to the licence conditions set, or risk losing their licence. They are equally held responsible for the actions of their affiliates on their behalf. The commission will continue to exercise its powers wherever necessary to protect vulnerable people.
I think that it was my noble friend Lord Smith who mentioned affiliates. The recent Advertising Standards Agency rulings were the result of work between the Gambling Commission and the ASA to address irresponsible adverts published by rogue affiliates. The commission works closely with other regulators, including the ASA, to raise standards in the gambling industry. Operators must take action to ensure that they have a clear view of what their affiliates are doing on their behalf. When they fail to do this, the commission will not hesitate to use its powers to hold them to account.
Through the digital charter, we are looking to create a framework for how businesses, individuals and wider society should act online. This will include how big tech companies can play their part in tackling emerging challenges, such as online harms. We will look across the full range of possible solutions, including working with industry and regulators where appropriate.
Despite the large rise in advertising over the decade, problem gambling has remained static, at less than 1% of the population. While the figures published last month show a rise from 0.6% to 0.8% between 2012 and 2015, this is not statistically significant, given the sample sizes. However, we take this issue seriously, as we are aware this may equate to around 600,000 people who face significant consequences as a result of their gambling—clearly, 600,000 too many.
Research, education and treatment are vital and, to that end, the Gambling Commission requires all operators to make an annual financial contribution to one or more organisations that carry out research, education and treatment for gambling-related harm. That is a licence condition. The industry currently contributes over £8 million per year. My noble friend Lord Chadlington, along with the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Stevenson, mentioned GambleAware, which is seeking to increase that contribution to £10 million, in line with what the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board estimates is needed to deliver its responsible gambling strategy.
As noble Lords are aware, a review of gaming machine stakes and prizes was launched in October last year. That review is also looking at social responsibility measures to ensure that all possible means to help problem gamblers were considered. Evidence on advertising protections was sought as part of the review.
Noble Lords mentioned several other points, including logos on shirts from the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. The FA has withdrawn its sponsorship with Ladbrokes on the grounds that it was not appropriate to take betting sponsorship, and is removing its logo—but that will very much be looked at in the review.
The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, mentioned several points, and I am afraid that several of the answers will need to wait until the review. However, she also asked about looking at underage gambling on e-sports. Betting on e-sports presents risks that need to be managed in a similar way to other forms of betting and gaming. The commission expects operators offering markets on e-sports to manage the risk, including the risk that children and young people may try to bet on such events, given their popularity. In August 2016, the Gambling Commission launched a discussion paper, setting out its thinking on virtual currencies, e-sports and social gaming, and seeking views on emerging issues that pose a risk to regulation and player protection.
The noble Lord, Lord Trevethin and Oaksey, talked about gambling online. Children are not allowed to gamble online, as we know, and all gambling operators in the British market must obtain a licence from the Gambling Commission and adhere to the licence conditions. These include requirements for age verification and ID checks within 72 hours of an account opening, or before any withdrawal of funds, whichever is first. Online betting is account-based and, where checks fail to verify the customer’s age, the operator cannot pay out any winnings.
I am sure that my noble friend Lord Chadlington and other noble Lords who have taken part in this debate will understand that I cannot discuss in detail many of the proposals raised. I do not want to pre-empt the findings of the review. We have listened to what has been said today, and I assure your Lordships that the Government take the issue seriously. I apologise if my responses have not been as full as I would wish and hope that the noble Lord, Lord Sugar, will not intervene and say, “You’re fired!”. I ask noble Lords to be patient until the review is published, when I am sure that we can debate these issues again.
We want to be sure we have the right balance—a gambling sector that can grow and contribute to the economy, but also one that is doing all it can to protect customers and communities from gambling-related harm. We have considered all the evidence and options open to us before publishing our proposals on the whole range of review topics, and the review will be published in the autumn. I expect that we will have another debate in this House then about how we go forward. I thank all noble Lords for taking part.
I thank all noble Lords for their excellent contributions to this debate, which I have greatly enjoyed and from which I have learned a great deal. My noble friend Lady Bloomfield referred to my time as chair of Action on Addiction. That experience convinced me that I have the addiction gene, if there is such a thing, and workaholism is my preferred addiction. I never fell foul of a gambling addiction, mainly because I was brought up in a small Welsh family and my parenting was remarkably good. In the Government’s proposals, I shall look for what they are doing to help parents in today’s families to deal with the mixed methods of gambling and manage their children with the same success as my parents managed me.