The evolution of casino advertising on radio broadcasting

Gambling advertising has become so commonplace that we often do not realise that it is gambling that is being advertised.

That sounds slightly contradictory, but many people who might frown on people who play online slots or poker buy lottery and raffle tickets without giving it a second thought. They are all forms of gambling, but societal norms deem some to be more respectable than others. This means we might not even think of radio ads for EuroMillions or Lotto as gambling ads but object to sports teams like Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk carrying the logos of betting companies 888 and Bet Regal. 

Many people are wondering how gambling advertising will change with the introduction of the new Gambling Regulator and whether they will go further than prohibiting ads on television and radio and on-demand audio-visual media between 5.30 am and 9 pm. The regulator, GRAI, will have the power to enact new regulations regarding the times, places, frequency and style of advertisements as well. The regulator will also be able to decide at which events advertisements can be shown or heard. Without a doubt, this is a crackdown on all forms of gambling advertising in an attempt to shield young people from potential gambling harms. 

Like it or not, gambling has been around for centuries, and whether it is regulated or pushed underground, people continue to participate. The general view at the moment seems to be that it is more beneficial to allow it and regulate it, thus promoting responsible gambling while bringing in revenues through taxation of gambling companies’ profits. The alternative is a thriving black market where people can fall into the clasps of unscrupulous operators. 

Few markets have been as progressive as the UK, where the 2005 Gambling Act saw bookmakers and casinos come out of the shadows and take centre stage. It is difficult to know if the legislators could have foreseen the impact of the internet, the advent of online casinos and their explosion after the introduction of smartphones. With an Apple or Android device and lightning-fast connectivity, most people can now access online casinos and sports betting opportunities whenever they want. The advertisers are fully aware of the power of radio, and it is now reported that gambling firms are amongst the heaviest radio advertisers. This has not happened without criticism, particularly as a report in the Guardian claimed gambling companies made up the most significant industry sector on the airwaves during the school run.

If you are in the UK, it is almost impossible to miss the Hey Harry adverts for Bet Victor, in which the hapless Harry gets asked for his betting advice only for him to confuse the questioner with replies about his dinner, leaving the washing on the line or how he got together with his wife. Eventually, his advice is always to head over to Bet Victor. The clever thing is that despite their repetition, there are enough renditions of the ad for them to sound relatively fresh. Sky is also a prolific radio advertiser in the UK and is currently focusing on everything live dealer related.

In the early days, while there was information about gambling broadcast, it was done in an editorial format, like coverage of the horse racing. This meant the only targeted people were those who sought out the betting news. However, in 2007, new legislation meant that gambling adverts could be aired during any program, regardless of the content, and many people argue it is inappropriate for gambling ads to be aired during family programs. Others claim it simply provides information about a legal activity and lets people make up their own minds. However, the Irish Regulator has fallen on the side of restricted ads until after the watershed.

In the UK, gambling advertising is permitted across all broadcast media, including radio, television and online platforms. While broadcast media drives awareness of all the big brands out there, many people use the internet to find out where to place their bets. There is a booming marketplace for online casino review sites both in the UK and Ireland. Rather than the casino with the largest voice (or marketing budget) getting all the attention, review sites employ experts that list the best online casinos based on their performance against a strict list of criteria. Regardless of size, every casino gets the same treatment, including the number of games on offer, software providers, customer service and payment options. This allows consumers to get an all-around view of what is on offer at a particular site and gives an equal voice to smaller operators who often rank highly.

While the UK has more relaxed laws on advertising gambling on radio (and other broadcast media), other countries have taken a different approach. The Netherlands banned untargeted remoted gambling ads in July 2023 to better protect vulnerable groups, and recruitment ads are no longer allowed to reach minors or young adults. Dutch gambling trade groups have also agreed to introduce self-regulatory measures, including no advertising of online gambling on radio, in print media or on billboards / outdoor media, and gambling ads only appear on TV between 10 pm and 6 am.

Despite pressure from anti-gambling lobbies, there are no plans in the UK for a ban on gambling ads on UK radio. However, there are plans to introduce changes in how they can be broadcast. There are plans to decrease the number of gambling ads that can be aired in one day, so stations would have to be selective about which ads to play and when. However, changes to gambling legislation in the UK keep being pushed back, so no one knows when they will come into force. However, as long as radio ads are not harmful or irresponsible, it is unlikely there will be a ban, and the medium will be used to attract more players.

China and India both have total bans on broadcast advertising for any form of advertising. However, this does not stop their citizens from gambling and visiting offshore online casinos. The new Irish Gambling Act seems to be trying to learn lessons from other more liberal markets but is opting for more restrictions than the UK. 


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