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Gambling tsar eyes safe ads for sector

The Betting Gaming & Lotteries Commission, BGLC, wants to determine the parameters for safe advertising for a sector that generated a record $60 billion in sales within the quarter ending June.

The regulator concedes that there is no evidence linking ads to the prevalence of gambling.

Still: “We are concerned about the frequency of gambling advertising and whether it is negatively impacting on children,” said BGLC Executive Director Vitus Evans in an interview with the Financial Gleaner on Thursday.

In the span of two years, the lottery sector has expanded from one to three major players, resulting in increased advertising on various media platforms. The advertisements at times play on stereotypes, caricatures, and often have catchy money slogans.

“We are not concerned about the slogans, but in particular, the volume of advertising and also outside providers advertising in the market,” Evans said.

He added that at times, gambling advertisements are on the airways every “five minutes on radio and TV”.

The gambling sector’s largest player, Supreme Ventures Limited, SVL, said it will await a draft of the new rules to assess their impact. The company, whose gaming and gambling operations span lottery, gaming lounges, sports betting, horse racing, and bookmaking, said that it consistently encourages responsible gaming.

“We look forward to being a part of consultations with the BGLC to develop a thorough and fair advertising code that equitably represents the interest of all industry stakeholders,” said Chloleen Daley-Muschett, corporate communications and public relations manager at SVL.

Latest figures show that SVL spent $790 million on marketing and business development over the year ending December 2021, more than doubling the $321 million spent the prior year.

The group only disaggregates those expenses in its annual financial statements.

The new players in the lottery market are Goodwill Gaming Enterprises Limited, which trades as Lucky Play, and Mahoe Gaming Enterprises Limited, operator of the Izizzi lottery, both of which are still playing catch-up in a market that was solely the province of SVL for two decades.

The BGLC will undertake a public consultation to invite feedback from key stakeholders and concerned citizens on proposed regulations for gambling advertising in Jamaica.

“With the growth of the gambling industry in Jamaica, there continues to be a considerable increase in the number of gambling-related messages across all media channels. This continues unchecked in the absence of specific regulations and guidelines for gambling advertising,” noted the procurement document for consultancy services for ‘Preparation of the Public Consultation Document: Gambling Advertising Guidelines and Regulations for Jamaica’.

The BGLC wants the consultant to take into consideration the interests of all stakeholders. This includes operators of various categories of gambling operations, their agents, punters and gamblers. It also should include the producers of gambling advertising content, media entities, medical and mental professionals, the Government and the general public.

The document defines advertising as any public communication, paid or unpaid, that exposes a message related to gambling to any audience in Jamaica. The medium of publication includes traditional broadcast (free to air and cable), print media, cinema advertising, magazines, digital news portals, social media, blogs, podcasts, billboards, mobile and other out-of-home advertising, video boards, CCTV cameras, in-store digital signage, branded merchandise, sports jerseys, perimeter boards, and other event signage.

“Even in the absence of research evidence proving a strong correlation between gambling advertising and problem gambling,” said the document, “the commission, as regulator of Jamaica’s gambling industry, has a responsibility to ensure that operators practise responsible marketing of gambling and to provide a framework or guidelines to be consistently applied by operators, across all sectors of the industry.”

The $60 billion of industry sales generated in the April-June period reflected a 50 per cent spike in revenue from $40 billion in the year-prior period and surpassed the first quarter outturn of $53.7 billion, generated from January to March.

In general, half of the revenue comes from gaming lounges and one-third from lottery games. The BGLC explained that the general recovery and opening up of the economy after lockdowns are driving business for gaming companies.

“The industry has shown signs of recovery from the pandemic, with increases in sales in all sectors except in the betting sector that recorded a marginal 0.1 per cent decrease,” stated the BGLC Gaming Industry Statistics – Quarterly Highlights to June 2022.

On SVL’s website it lists a section dedicated to self-evaluation. It asks that gamblers think of the lottery as a form of entertainment only and not as a way to make money; to decide in advance a limit on spending in a given time-frame, and stick to it; to be cognisant of one’s emotions and never gamble as a way to escape negative feelings; to avoid chasing losses; and to listen to family or friends who voice concern.

“Our products are a source of entertainment, and as such, we encourage gamers to use discretionary spend when gaming or use funds that they can afford to dedicate to playing. When the fun is done, that’s usually an indication that it’s time to stop,” SVL says on its website.

Mahoe Gaming/Izizzi advocates on its website that persons with a gambling problem should reach out to RISE Life Management Services for counselling, with a toll-free line and other contact details provided.

And Goodwill/Lucky Play has a web page for responsible gaming that advocates setting limits and outlines tips on how individuals can recognise when they have a gambling problem.

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