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The Guardian bans gambling ads on news websites

The chief executive of the news publisher said studies proved the ads were likely to cause harm.

The chief executive of the news publisher said studies proved the ads were likely to cause harm.

Playing cards.
(Stock image)

The Guardian says it will no longer accept advertisements for gambling services and related businesses, a move that will impact its print product and its international news websites alike.

The prohibition was announced Thursday morning by the Guardian’s Chief Executive Officer Anna Bateson, who cited numerous studies showing gambling-related advertisements could draw people into an activity that generates a significant amount of financial and mental harm.

“We understand and respect that millions of our readers, including our reporters and staff, are passionate sports fans who may occasionally choose to engage in gambling as part of their sporting experience,” Bateson wrote. “It is a matter of personal freedom, and we have no issue with that. We fully support the enjoyment of sports and respect individuals’ choices to participate in occasional gambling on football, horse racing, or any other sport.”

Bateson said the Guardian’s concern is that digital advertisements could create a “trap” for sports fans who might be lured into the vicious cycle of gambling addiction, one that can be extremely difficult to break.

Studies published in Australia and elsewhere have shown a clear correlation between an uptick in gambling-related advertisements across websites and an increase in financial loss associated with betting.

In the United States, the legalization of sports betting in some areas has had an immediate effect on gambling revenues everywhere. A report published by the American Gaming Association showed sportsbook revenue hit a record of $7.5 billion last year in the 33 states where sports betting is legal; the legalization caused sports betters to turn to other forms of gambling, where overall gaming revenue skyrocketed to over $60 billion for the first time since the group has kept tabs on the industry.

Local publishers, including newspapers and news websites, are reaping the benefit of this boost. Some industry groups say advertising revenue from sportsbook products will reach nearly $3 billion by 2024. Local TV stations have seen an influx of cash from gambling brands as well, with nearly $100 million committed to TV ad spend so far this year.

But what is good for publishers isn’t necessarily good for readers, and the Guardian believes accepting gambling-related advertising runs contrary to its mission of holding apparent-predatory industries accountable.

“By taking a stand against gambling advertising, we believe we can offer a place for sport fans all over the world to enjoy world-class sports journalism in an environment free from advertising pushing betting, wagering or online casinos,” Bateson wrote.

The decision to ban gambling ads on the Guardian’s website comes after several local initiatives in some of the regions where the news outlet operates to ban all forms of gambling advertisements. In the United Kingdom, some lawmakers proposed banning soccer players and reality TV stars from appearing in gambling-related ads. The proposal ultimately fell through.

Prior to the ban, the Guardian accepted a limited amount of advertising for sportsbook products in some markets like the United States. Its newspaper printed in the United Kingdom generates more revenue from the placement of ads for the National Lottery. A spokesperson for the Guardian said lottery-related ads will continue to be accepted.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).