The UK gambling industry is huge, simply because gambling is a very available and very popular activity in Great Britain. From betting on sports to playing casino games like the slots or roulette, Brits enjoy betting.

UK gambling industryFrom April 2017 to March 2018, the Gambling Commission found that the UK gambling industry achieved a total gross gambling yield of £14.4 billion, marking an increase of 4.5 per cent on the year prior. The total gross gambling yield for the remote sector also grew significantly, by 13.7 per cent to £5.4 billion from the 16-17 records. All of these numbers show how popular gambling is in the UK, but the industry took what looks to be a bit of a body blow in late 2018 which looks to come into action at the back end of this summer.

In December 2018, the biggest gambling companies in the UK came together to agree to put a form of ban on certain types of advertising at certain times of the day, primarily to help them reinforce the stance that they encourage safe gambling. But how will this self-enforced ban impact the massive UK gambling industry, and how will they react to the change?

The new agreement

Expected to come into force for the start of the next Premier League season, 10 August 2019, the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling has confirmed that the nation’s biggest gambling companies have agreed to follow a so-called ‘whistle-to-whistle’ advertising ban. What the ban effectively entails is that gambling advertisements won’t be shown on television during or around sporting events.

More specifically, betting adverts won’t be shown before 21:00 during live sporting events shown on television, with the ban starting five minutes prior to the start of the event and finishing five minutes after it concludes, including events which start before 21:00 but end after 21:00. Whistle-to-whistle also includes re-runs and highlights of sporting events that are shown before the 21:00 watershed.

The only sporting events exempt from this new ban are those in the sports of horse racing and greyhound racing, as they are intrinsically linked to gambling.

The ban comes in reaction to public concern that betting has become normalised through advertising at sporting events. As the UK gambling industry continues to make itself a safer environment for those who do wish to partake, taking this watershed approach was the right move.

It’s an important first step towards making gambling safer for people, a consideration that all organisations must undertake when considering its clientele, so now, for the organisations involved, the attention turns to their new strategies of getting ahead in the increasingly competitive industry.

Adapting to the changes

Advertising is how companies get their name out in the public domain, demonstrate their product, and increase their appeal. It’s a necessary part of business. In an industry that’s as overwhelmingly competitive as the gambling industry, particularly online, advertising was the means for big companies to separate themselves from the rest and compete with fellow big-names. Now that the main form of television advertising is gone, new ethical strategies will need to be developed to enable companies to compete.

It’s important to stress ethical means of advertising strategy as bombarding certain apps and websites with advertising banners can be as bad as the timed television advertising approach. The best way that companies can go about getting ahead now that a lot of their advertising is about to be nullified is through their usual methods of having a better offering.

Over the years, the immensely competitive online gambling industry has unravelled many different means to appeal to customers, but the most tired, trusted, and varied method which has evolved is that of the welcome offer. Welcome offers started as bonus cash which, if it resulted in winnings, had to be wagered a certain number of times to be withdrawn. As more people tried the offer, more decided against it as it wasn’t much of a bonus due to the wagering requirement. So websites had to get creative but eventually decided that the best way was to offer a more clear-cut offer which brings real value to players.

Now, months before the ban, comparison websites show a wide range of different welcome offers, ranging from betting £5 to get £20 four lots of £5 free bets to betting £20 to get a £20 free bet. While the initial bets need to be placed at odds of at least 1/2 or evens in most instances and in the full amount on one bet, the free bets, which won’t return the free stake with a win, offer a clear-cut form of advertising to potential new customers.

With advertising gone during and around broadcast sporting events, it likely won’t be too long before the top gambling companies move to remove their advertising from boards at grounds and football shirts. Roughly 60 per cent of 44 clubs in the Premier League and Championship have a shirt sponsor from the UK gambling industry. But if gambling advertisements are effectively hidden from plain sight at sporting events, it does mean that the superior operators or operators with a better offering should rise to the top of the crowded online playing field.

If online gambling operators have to resort to solely advertising online and wish to do so ethically, they’ll have to better themselves in the eyes of the reviewer. These days, almost everyone’s first port of call for anything is a comparison website. Those exist for online gaming and betting websites too, so operators will have to enhance their overall offering as well as other important factors to new players, such as their welcome offers. This way, only people who wish to gamble and seek it out will experience a form of advertising and know their choices as opposed to anyone who may be watching the game at hand.

Removing advertising from live sporting events is a necessary move, and eventually, the industry may be inclined to simply rely on word of mouth and reviewers. This will enable those seeking to gamble to get a better view of their choices rather than only knowing what is advertised, as well as those not seeking to gamble being left well alone until a time when they themselves choose to partake.