Why Are Gambling TV Adverts Not Banned During Racing Too?

Why Are Gambling TV Adverts Not Banned During Racing Too?

Since August 1, 2019, gambling ads have been banned during live sports broadcasts which air before 9pm in the UK, but this self-imposed ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban does not include horse or greyhound racing.

Why?

When you consider how much live horse racing there is - every single day of the week on Racing TV and/or Sky Racing, plus once every week on ITV - and that all of it is broadcast before the 9pm watershed, it seems odd that it was not included in the ban.

Then factor in that terrestrial TV broadcasts of horse racing, like on Irish channel RTÉ, gambling television ads are so prevalent and intrusive that they now pop up several time during the build-up to races, as well as being played during advert breaks.

That's a lot of exposure. But that's not all.

Betting plays a big part within live horse racing broadcasts, with odds available on every race - and live in-race too. They are used as a tool to explain what chances each horse has in a race, and horse racing programmes will almost always include a betting expert.

There will always be betting tips offered, and perhaps charity bets placed by the presenters, who will also explain what's happening in the day's pool betting on the Tote - as well as the regular odds markets.

Included in the official results of horse and greyhound racing are their starting prices - the odds they were in the betting to win the race when the race began - and any major movements that occurred in their price.

Percentage of Races Sponsored by Bookies

In a small study we carried out last year, it was found that 31% of Ireland's 35 Grade 1 jumps races - the highest level - were sponsored by bookmakers. In Britain, the figure was 62% of 39 Grade 1s.

Bringing that up to date, bookmakers sponsored 16% of all races in Ireland last year, amounting to a spend of €846,750. The second-largest sponsor was the media sector, contributing €771,550, which represented a 15% stake, while racecourses and racecourse supporters clubs were next at 14% and stud farms came in fourth at 10%.

Bookmakers' support of British racing is clear to the naked eye too, with two of Cheltenham's feature races, the Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase, backed by bookmakers, and major Group 1s on the Flat also supported, like the prestigious Coral-Eclipse - won this year by mighty mare Enable.

On top of sponsorship of events, tax revenue collected from bookmakers in Britain and Ireland is ring-fenced for horse and greyhound racing funding; Ireland taxes monies made from all bets placed by 2%, and in the UK there's a 15% levy on gross profits.

Both taxation laws draw online betting into the net, and widen out to exchange betting companies, with Ireland taxing commission charges charged by betting exchanges by 25%, and the UK requesting 15%.

The above facts added up to the powers that be deciding gambling was inextricably linked to horse racing, and that therefore the gambling advert ban on live coverage did not need to apply.

However, don't the reasons behind the ban to protect vulnerable viewers also apply to horse racing? With all the visibility bookmakers already have in horse racing, do they really need the additional television adverts?

Changing Attitudes

When you consider the sponsorship on sports shirts, and on sports ground advertising hoardings, bookmakers also still have plenty of exposure on television during live sports events, especially in football.

Change is afoot in sponsorship attitudes. Bookmakers Paddy Power recently launching a (promotional) ‘Save Our Shirts’ campaign to take sponsors' names off football shirts for example, but there remains a heavy betting presence even with the television ad ban.

Bookmakers are ingrained in many sports outside horse racing that young people are interested in, mostly those with regular live television coverage.

The voluntary ban on broadcasting betting ads during such live broadcasts, and the sponsoring of TV programs before the 9pm watershed, only removes a small percentage of their branding and messaging.

If it were applied to horse and greyhound racing, it would be an even smaller percentage though, so my conclusion is that it doesn't make sense to exclude horse and greyhound racing from the ban.

It would seem that an ad ban during racing coverage would have minimal effect on bookmakers, while still protecting young and vulnerable sports fans from over-exposure to betting marketing.

Betting is indeed inextricably linked to horse and greyhound racing, but there were many decades where that link didn't include television adverts.

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