Gerald Jones, MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, has helped to secure the suspension of advertising by gambling companies in the UK for the duration of the coronavirus lockdown.
During the past few weeks, MPs from across political parties had voiced growing concerns that the lockdown measures could put gambling addicts and vulnerable people at greater risk, with people being forced to stay at home and having easy access to online gambling on computers and phones.
In response, the Betting and Gambling Council (BGC), which represents 90% of the UK’s betting and gaming companies, issued a series of pledges to ensure that member companies do not exploit vulnerable people during the lockdown.
However, Mr Jones, along with fellow members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm, including over 20 MPs and Lords from across parties, wrote to the BGC calling on them to impose much stricter measures than proposed, and adopt five further measures, including the suspension of advertising, during the lockdown.
This week the BGC confirmed that member companies would suspend all TV and radio advertising by 7th May, with the ban due to last until at least 5th June, accounting for half of all gambling advertising being suspended, and called on other companies in the gambling sector to also suspend all advertising.
While Mr Jones welcomed the announcement from the BGC, he argued the decision to suspend advertising should have been taken at the very start of the lockdown, rather than now under pressure from the All-Party Group, commenting:
“In the midst of a national crisis such as this, people’s health and safety must be the top priority, and the most vulnerable among us must be protected.
“Gambling addicts and vulnerable people now face greater risk not only from being forced to stay at home, with boredom and easy access to online gambling, but also from potential financial difficulties as a result of the crisis, and I urge gambling companies to suspend all forms of advertising for the duration of the lockdown.
“The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the dangers of gambling for the most vulnerable among us, as well as the damage it can do to people’s lives, and this decision must be the start of a permanent change for advertising in the industry; when this crisis is over, we cannot go back to business as usual.”