Gambling Advertising - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 2:39 pm ar 25 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Trevethin and Oaksey Lord Trevethin and Oaksey Crossbench 2:39, 25 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong. I apologise for my slightly late appearance in the Chamber.

I was also a member of the Select Committee which considered these issues, now a few years back. I am also a member of Peers for Gambling Reform, led by the noble Lord, Lord Foster. I pay tribute to his tireless work in seeking improvements to these problems. Like the noble Lord, I very much hope that, when the Minister responds, he will not be tempted to adopt the position that is to some extent taken in the White Paper, in which it was rather naively said that there is no hard evidence that gambling, advertising and marketing increase problem gambling. It is in the nature of things that conclusive evidence on that point is not available.

The following propositions are not in doubt. First, the gambling industry spends well over £1 billion a year on advertising and marketing in this country. It was more than £1.5 billion in 2017 and I would have a very large bet at very short odds that it is more now. Secondly, problem gamblers unquestionably provide a very substantial part of the profits made by the industry—see the committee’s report and plenty of other material. Thirdly, problem gamblers are more susceptible to gambling advertising than others—see the learned and impressive article published by the Public Health journal in February 2023. In all these circumstances, it is obviously correct to infer that the industry knows what it is spending its money on and why, that gambling advertising and marketing will increase gambling activity, and that a significant part of the increase will involve problem gambling. In short, one simply has to follow the money.

I have looked at some of the material helpfully circulated by the House of Lords Library. It contains a number of studies and papers that have been prepared in the last three or four years. I was particularly struck by one paper which I will mention in the time I have available. It was published by two academics at Bristol University, Rossi and Nairn, in 2021. Having considered evidence from 650 participants who were exposed to 24 gambling advertisements—and also, by way of a control, to other forms of non-gambling advertisements —it found that gambling advertising is

“significantly more appealing to children and young persons than to adults”.

It found that, in 2021, 45% of 11 to 17 year-olds saw gambling advertising on social media at least once a week, and about 25% saw it every day. That was three years ago. Use of, and to some extent addiction to, social media has not decreased since then.

There are various other findings which I do not have time to set out. One in particular struck me, and the noble Lord, Lord Smith, spoke to this. There are many advertisements that relate to esports gambling. I doubt if many Members of this House engage in esports, let alone gamble on them. Esports are the professional, competitive playing of computer games online. To my surprise, I found that there is a huge amount of gambling on this. The authors of this report observed, correctly, that this is a development almost entirely under the radar of public discourse and policy-making. In so far as I can see, there is almost nothing in the White Paper about that.

The authors of the paper made various recommendations, in particular a ban on esports gambling advertising—because it is targeted at children and young persons—an expansion of the definition of a young person from 16 to 24, and enforced arrangements which would involve gambling advertisements being provided only when users confirmed that they recognised and wanted them. I do not have time to say more about the paper or the other available material but, as other speakers have emphasised, it all tends to suggest that there is a very real problem.

I have a question for the Minister. The Government are prepared to make unlawful the purchase of cigarettes for a significant segment of the population. Is there any good reason why they would not enforce an arrangement whereby gambling advertising would have to do what cigarette advertising used to do when it was permitted—namely, inform the potential user of the probable outcome, which is that he or she will lose money?