London Mayor Sadiq Khan Under Pressure to Ban Gambling Ads on Transport Network
Youth exposure to gambling advertisements on online and mobile app platforms has sparked concern among London authorities. Mayor Sadiq Khan is facing increasing pressure to fulfill his promise to ban gambling companies from posting harmful marketing materials on the Transport for London (TfL) network.
The call for a ban on gambling ads aligns with previous efforts to restrict the promotion of products and services that are deemed to cause social harm within London’s transport network. Bans on advertisements for unhealthy foods and those promoting unrealistic body images have already been implemented. However, the definition of “harmful” gambling remains unclear, leading to concerns that London authorities may delay taking any action.
During his election campaign in April 2021, Sadiq Khan vowed to take action against such advertisements, recognizing the negative societal impact of gambling. Despite his pledge, ads for prominent gambling companies continue to be a common sight within the city’s transit network.
Experts and politicians have emphasized the urgency for Khan to make good on his promise and broaden the scope of the crackdown. Gambling support charities and public health specialists have long advocated for stricter regulations on gambling advertising, particularly within the TfL network.
While recent data from the Gambling Commission shows a decline in youth gambling, London authorities have expressed frustration in regulating the market due to unclear definitions of harmful gambling. Dr. Tom Coffey, Khan’s senior adviser on health policy, has highlighted the challenge of defining “harmful” gambling and the need for a precise government-led definition to avoid legal challenges.
The UK government’s gambling white paper has led to discussions with industry stakeholders and leading charities to refine legislation. While progress has been made, there has been a notable absence of discussions around advertising limitations, with the focus instead on curbing incentives like free bets and direct marketing.
The ongoing conversation underscores the complex challenges in regulating gambling advertisements and their potential impact on vulnerable individuals in the London community. The lack of provisions in the upcoming white paper means that any bans within TfL will depend on Mayor Khan and his willingness to address the concerns of his constituents.