Sky CEO weighs in on gambling advertising debate

The CEO of Sky UK, Stephen van Rooyen, has slammed the Remote Gambling Association’s (RGA) plans to introduce a whistle-to-whistle advertising ban for gambling firms.

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Sky’s CEO says a ban on TV adverts ignores the real problem of online. © Pexels.

Van Rooyen was quick to agree that the current volume of gambling adverts is unacceptable. However, he wrote that the current methods being proposed to limit advertising are ignoring the “inconvenient truth about gambling adverts”, and will do little to nothing to help protect problem gamblers.

Writing an opinion piece in The Times, Van Rooyen makes reference to a recent GambleAware report on marketing spend by gambling firms, which found that operators direct 80% of their advertising budgets online.

Online advertising spend is currently five times that of TV marketing. According to Van Rooyen, any ban on television adverts will simply lead to operators allocating more of their budget towards the “largely unregulated online world.” This, in turn, could spell bad news for problem gamblers or at-risk problem gamblers, as he explains:

If the RGA and gambling companies are serious about protecting vulnerable gamblers, then they should start by looking at where they spend the most money, what has the least level of regulation and where there is most evidence of harm: the online world. Stephen van Rooyen, CEO Sky UK

Van Rooyen has denied that he is speaking as an broadcasting executive worried about revenue, instead saying that a proportionate response to the excesses of advertising should be introduced. However, analysts pointed out last week during the debate about a whistle-to-whistle advertising ban that Sky would be one of the biggest losers should such a move be implemented.

Sky has already acted to curb the number of gambling adverts it screens. Sky subscribers will soon be able to manually control whether they see gambling adverts or not. Furthermore, the broadcaster will introduce a one gambling advert per commercial break limit for the 2019/20 English Premier League season.

However, analysts also questioned the motives behind that move. While a one gambling ad per commercial break policy would indeed mean viewers see fewer gambling adverts, it would also make that one available spot lucrative for bookmakers. That could lead to a bidding war between operators vying for a place on the airwaves, which would in-turn prove lucrative for Sky.

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