Interview with Richard Harris
Gambling is a contentious area, with frequent calls for tighter regulation of marketing, how do you strike the right balance?
It makes me smile because a good amount of noise comes from a small group of parliamentarians. As we know, political advertising is completely unregulated. You can say what you like without any substantiation, you can make up numbers, you do not need to reference the source. We all know that from having all lived through whatever side of the Brexit fence you are on, hence the welcome work of the Coalition for Reform of Political Advertising. I can only hope that the slight hypocrisy here does not go unnoticed given the rigour that exists around Advertising standards and regulation for the industry.
But to address the specific question, it is a really nuanced area and banning different forms of advertising can seem like very easy targets. There are arguments on both sides of course, which I absolutely appreciate. Advertising, marketing and restrictions are one part of it, no question, but the industry has come from a place where perhaps it did not self-regulate enough in the past and things are improving.
There is an awful lot of self-regulation being taken on board, certainly in the last couple of years. For example, the whistle-to-whistle ban on advertising in live sport, where two years ago you couldn't watch a football match without every ad being a gambling ad, that is no longer the case.
Do any countries stand out as having struck the right balance?
Well, in the gambling world, the UK is the most advanced market by a country mile, as far as regulation of advertising is concerned. Things are changing elsewhere, but the UK is by far the most advanced.
What do you see as the key risks of increasing marketing restrictions?
If you remove brand building and the ability for reputable organisations to build credibility, then you put us all on a level playing field with the black market and customers would not know how to differentiate between the two. It is a real concern for this industry. Where we are right now is that the unforeseen circumstances of over-regulation or inappropriate regulation could drive far more unregulated gambling advertising and create far more of a harmful environment for the consumer.
Love it or hate it, TV advertising builds trust and credibility in organisations, it encourages organisations to sign up to higher standards. Without it, where would it leave the consumer being able to differentiate between the good actors and the bad actors? That’s not to say that you need to spend millions of pounds to launch a good brand and a good business because you don't, but restricting for the wrong reasons is something that we need to be very careful about.