The Gambling Health Alliance (GHA), a national coalition of organisations led by Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) wrote to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan to implement his manifesto pledge to ban gambling advertisements from the Transport for London network.
The GHA advocates for taking a public health approach to reducing gambling harms, and as such, we are calling for greater regulation of adverts for gambling products to protect the population, and particularly vulnerable groups, from these harms.
Gambling harms up to 20% of the population, either directly or through being affected by a loved one’s experience. The saturation of advertising and marketing promoting gambling to young people, sports fans, and the general population exists to increase participation in an activity that is associated with harms ranging from financial, mental and physical health issues, to suicide. The GHA therefore shares the view that products that can cause such serious harm have no place being promoted to London’s residents, workers and visitors.
A recent independent poll found that the public largely back this new approach: over three quarters (77%) of adults support a watershed ban on gambling, and two thirds (63%) would go even further and support a total ban on such adverts. It stands to reason, therefore, that the majority of TfL’s users would appreciate the ability to travel free from the marketing pressure of the gambling industry.
This call for ban is timely as the Government undertakes it’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act. Earlier this year, Bristol City Council banned gambling adverts from council-owned property. By taking similar action, we believe it would send a strong political message to the Government that tighter regulation on gambling advertising, sponsorship and promotion is workable, well-received, and urgently needed.
We recognise the financial implication to removing these adverts. But with the socioeconomic burdens of gambling resulting from, for instance, loss of employment, reduced productivity, debt and bankruptcy, evictions, foreclosures and homelessness, crime associated with gambling, relationship breakdowns, and treatment for addiction, the cost of not acting would be even greater.
London has a long history of public health leadership and innovation, including the recent intervention on mask-wearing on public transport. So, we are calling on the Mayor to continue this important legacy by taking quick and decisive action against one of the most significant emerging public health issues of our time.