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Gambling giants slash odds on TV advertising crackdown

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Britain’s biggest gambling groups will hold talks on Tuesday about an unprecedented series of voluntary curbs on their advertising amid mounting political pressure for a crackdown on their industry.

Sky News has learnt that the board of the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), which counts Bet365, Betfred, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill among its members, will meet to discuss the advertising code to which they are supposed to adhere.

Reviewed on an annual basis, Tuesday’s agenda is understood to contain the most rigorous set of measures to restrict television ads ever considered by the gaming industry.

The proposals to be discussed include a complete ban on pre-watershed advertising by gambling companies; restricting the number of gaming ads to one per commercial break; and banning the ‘in-play’ ads during live broadcast of football and other matches.

Sources said that the RGA board meeting was unlikely to deliver a consensus among the body’s roughly 35 members, and would require further consultation before recommendations are made to the group that polices the industry’s voluntary advertising code.

Nevertheless, the talks underline the acute awareness within the multi-billion pound gambling industry that meaningful action needs to be taken in an attempt to see off the threat of potentially more draconian legislation.

Last week, the Government caved in to demands for swifter reforms to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals after ministers had indicated that a clampdown would not come into eff‎ect until next October.

That decision triggered Tracey Crouch’s resignation as the sports minister, a move applauded by MPs on all sides of the Commons, and ignited a fresh row about the policy.

The issue of advertising restrictions has been the subject of fierce debate for many years, but has intensified as the volume of commercials aired by bookmakers has proliferated as they have sought to capture share of the faster-growing digital gambling market.

Some gaming companies have publicly declared‎ their support for new curbs, with GVC, the owner of Ladbrokes, saying last month that it supported a move to ban gambling ads around live football prior to the 9pm TV watershed.

However, the company declined to move unilaterally, with people close to it insisting that it was right not to ‎do so on the grounds that it risked being put at a competitive disadvantage.

Sky, the parent company of Sky News, has also sought to take a leadership position on the issue of problem gambling, announcing recently that from next summer, it will allow a maximum of one gambling ad per commercial break.

The company also said it would develop its AdSmart technology to allow customers to block gambling ads when viewing on Sky and Virgin Media TV platforms from June 2020.

The RGA declined to comment on the agenda for Tuesday’s board meeting.

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