Sky to restrict betting commercials for the next Premier League season

Sky has announced plans to restrict gambling ads for the 2019-2020 Premier League season to one per commercial break.  Sky currently runs up to four separate ‘in-play’ betting adverts per commercial break. Mounting criticism of the gambling industry in the press, and politically is clearly a factor in Sky’s decision, as the gambling industry gets on the front foot to restrict advertising before the Government steps in and does something about it.

Jeremy Wright, the UK Culture Secretary, said, “It’s an important and very welcome move that will better protect vulnerable people from the impact of gambling related harm.” From 2020, Sky will be introducing a feature allowing viewers to opt-out of seeing gambling adverts entirely and alternative adverts will be shown in their place.

Sky’s UK CEO said, “Our customers are worried about gambling ads on TV, and we understand their concerns. That’s why we’ve committed to limiting the amount of gambling ads on Sky and better protecting those vulnerable to problem gambling.”

According to Tim Poole of Gambling Insider, industry reaction, including from Paddy Power Co-Founder and former CEO Stewart Kenny, has been positive.  Whilst at face value the move could be negative for the industry, it may actually boost advertising revenues and improve the quality of gambling ads.

He further states, “What can the biggest online sportsbooks in the world – already known by most watching – say in five adverts that they can’t in one?” Pro-active steps are better than inaction and a potential ban on advertising altogether.

He also notes that ‘It can subsequently be used against those who lobby politically – often inaccurately — against the gambling industry on an emotional but not evidence-based mantra! If Sky’s proposals are implemented, […] baseless comments directed towards advertising directors can be batted away for a home run. Its as close to self-regulation as it gets’.

Whilst this decision has clearly been driven by negative publicity in the press, it’s good to see that broadcasters are taking seriously the risk of an all-out ban on advertising of gambling on television if they do not act.  Let’s see if other broadcasters follow suit.  Some of the lesser commercial TV channels seem to survive on nothing but gambling advertising.  It’s also strange that whilst television advertising is being tightened, the recent deal with Formula 1 to permit gambling advertising appears to be moving in the opposite direction.


Richard Williams

Richard Williams

Partner – Joint-Head of Licensing, Gaming & Regulatory

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This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.