The number of gambling commercials on British TV has rocketed from 234,000 a year to nearly 1.4m annually since the deregulation of the sector six years ago, according to new research.
Media regulator Ofcom on Tuesday published research showing that viewers were bombarded with 1.39m gambling ads ran last year, with under-16s exposed to an average of 211 ads each.
This is an increase of nearly 600% since the Gambling Act 2005 came into force in September 2007, which opened the door to TV advertising for sports betting, online casinos and poker. Prior to that legislation only allowed ads for football pools, the National Lottery and bingo premises.
In 2007, some 234,000 gambling ads were aired – two years before that the figure was just 90,000. This rose to 537,000 in 2008 after the market was liberalised.
Ofcom pointed out that between 2005 and 2012, a period that has seen significant growth in the number of digital TV channels available to viewers, the total amount of TV advertising airtime also doubled from 17.4m to 34.2m spots.
Over this period the proportion of commercials accounted for by gambling ads rose from 0.5% to 4.1% of all TV advertising.
According to Ofcom, in 2012 532,000 bingo TV adverts were aired, 411,000 commercials for online casino and poker services, 355,000 for lotteries and scratch cards, and 91,000 sports betting ads.
The research shows that the 1.39m TV ads produced 30.9bn "impacts" – that is, the number of times a commercial was seen by viewers – across the course of 2012.
A breakdown of the impacts shows that adults saw an average of 630 gambling ads on TV, while children aged four to 15 saw 211.