Gambling Advertising

Lord Bishop of Derby Excerpts
Thursday 25th April 2024

(1 month, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bishop of Derby Portrait The Lord Bishop of Derby
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My Lords, I echo the thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Foster, for securing this debate and for his work, alongside the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans and others, on Peers for Gambling Reform, campaigning tirelessly over the past several years. While the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans cannot be in his place today to add his voice, I am sure I echo the sentiments of all Members when I say that we look forward to welcoming him back very soon to add weight to this conversation.

We have heard this afternoon that the link between problem gambling and serious harm is well documented. There are not only financial impacts of gambling addiction, which may on its own drive individuals with large gambling debts to theft, fraud or other forms of criminal activity, but also impacts on relationships, work, school and serious harm to both physical and mental health. Public Health England identified problem gamblers as at greater risk of dying from any cause and significantly increased risk of dying from suicide, as we have so eloquently just heard.

These consequences, as well as having an impact on those individuals, also lead to indirect harms to children in those households. I welcome the Government’s response to the committee’s second report on gambling regulation, particularly the commitment to use funds from the levy to commission independent research around gambling and gambling-related harms. However, I echo the committee’s call for this research to be undertaken urgently and specifically on the link between gambling advertising and gambling harm to children. I ask for a commitment and a timeline to address that recommendation.

Research by GambleAware released this month makes clear that children and young people are exposed to a high level of gambling advertising, particularly online. While we have heard that this link has not been proven to be causal, we have heard about the research that found that 34% of those who bet in the UK admit to being influenced by advertising, with over 15% claiming that ads cause them to increase their gambling. A similar percentage said that viewing ads resulted in them taking up gambling again after a break.

Gambling reform is not my area of expertise, but I have done a significant amount of work over the course of my ministry with at-risk children and young people. I am currently vice-chair of the Children’s Society. Ofcom’s most recent report finding that one-quarter of five to seven year olds own a smartphone, with nearly one-third using social media unsupervised, caused me great concern. We know that our children are increasingly online. We need to ensure we are keeping pace with the rapidly evolving online landscape to protect our children from harm.

New technologies are significantly increasing exposure to advertisement, sponsorships and marketing, and our current codes must be urgently updated to reflect this. Social media forms a huge part of the gambling industry’s advertising practices. I was really shocked to read recently that 92% of content marketing ads sent by major gambling brands were not obviously identifiable as advertising. That particularly impacts children.

I too will close with an example illustrating that current guidance to protect children and young people simply is not fit for purpose. As recently as a few weeks ago, a gambling firm was promoting a game on social media marketed with three cartoon frogs. Taking a dip with the “ribbiting rascals” might appeal to some adults, but it would almost certainly appeal more to children. Such advertising should not be allowed.