Betting and media firms offer to fund addiction awareness ad campaign

Betting firms and broadcasters have made an offer to the government to fund an £8m addiction awareness campaign, in a move Labour warned must not be a “stitch-up” to stave off tighter regulation of adverts.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will publish a long-awaited review of the gambling industry within weeks, including the government’s view on the rising number of betting adverts on television.

Documents seen by the Guardian show that gambling companies, broadcasters and the advertising industry responded to the review with a joint offer of a “national campaign” to show off their commitment to tackling addiction. In one exchange circulated among gambling companies and trade bodies, the idea for the campaign is described as a “consequence of the government’s gambling review”.

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, warned that the timing of the initiative was worrying, coming as the government considers whether to impose tighter restrictions on betting adverts to tackle concerns about problem gambling.

“There must be no stitch-up to help the gambling industry avoid tighter restrictions on advertising,” said Watson, who has called for a ban on football clubs accepting shirt sponsorship deals from gambling firms. “Industry-funded campaigns highlighting the risks of problem gambling are all very well, but they can’t be an alternative to regulation.”

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