William Hill’s potential next CEO backs curbs on TV gambling adverts

Finance director Philip Bowcock breaks ranks with rest of betting industry to express sympathy with limiting ads

The man tipped to lead the UK’s second-biggest bookmaker has broken ranks with the industry by offering support for a curb on TV gambling adverts.

Betting companies have largely rejected suggestions that their ads are seen by too many vulnerable people and children, but William Hill’s finance director said he understood people’s concerns.

“I have teenage children and we are sympathetic to some sort of curb or some sort of review around the level of advertising,” said Philip Bowcock.

Asked if companies were glamourising gambling, he claimed William Hill was more cautious than some high street rivals.

“You could say that we are a little bit more corporate, but we try and be responsible about what we promote,” he said.

Bowcock, the interim CEO after the departure of James Henderson last July following successive profit warnings, is among the favourites to be named chief executive, with a decision due within weeks.

His comments on advertising, as the company announced a 1% increase in pre-tax profit to £226m, come as the government reviews the potential harmcaused by fixed-odds betting terminals and TV advertising.

The gambling industry has largely been defensive about the impact on children of TV advertising, which is banned before the 9pm watershed, except during sports events. The Remote Gambling Association, which counts William Hill among its members, rejected the need for curbs on the industry last year. And the Association of British Bookmakers has pointed to voluntary measures such as scrapping adverts for free bets before the watershed.

But one industry source said backing restrictions on daytime TV ads may benefit William Hill.

“If you’ve got hundreds of shops with your name in the window, you’ve got much greater exposure than someone like Sun Bets, who have to do stunts with pies to get their name into the market,” said the source, referring to the controversial incident involving the Sutton United reserve goalkeeper Wayne Shaw.

GambleAware recently launched adverts highlighting the risks of addiction. The ads, one addressing fruit machines and one highlighting online gaming, appear on YouTube for internet users in the north-east and north-west of England, but could be rolled out nationally.

The charity wants gambling companies to agree to one of its adverts being broadcast for every 20 of their own.

Source: The Guardian


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