London Mayor Sadiq Khan has asked Transport for London (TFL) to review its advertising policy, in a bid to remove gambling adverts from the system. While the proposal is currently just in review stage, and there is no schedule for implementation, the move should catch the interest of the gambling industry.
The move stems from a recent discussion during a meeting of the London Assembly, run by Sian Berry, Khan’s Green Party rival in his recent re-election bid. In the meeting, Ms. Berry raised the question of whether increased revenue from gambling ads was appropriate for the the city.
In just a three month period from April to June of this year, the TFL saw 49 different campaigns related to gambling across its various platforms. That was not far off the total for the full financial year of 2018/2019, which saw 61 gambling campaigns through the year on the TFL network.
Ms. Berry cited the state of the UK economy, and questioned the strategy of the city making money from gambling advertising “in light of the struggles faced by many Londoners today.”
The Mayor Agrees
The Mayor responded to Berry in writing, and seems to be in full agreement. In the written response, Kahn agreed to direct the TFL to “bring forward” its plans regarding gambling advertising.
For its part, the TFL confirmed that an assessment is underway. While there is no conclusion or timeframe as of yet, TFL has committed to look into how to implement such a ban in response to the Mayor’s challenge.
It is perhaps no surprise that Khan backed the idea. While the latest move was sparked by a question from Berry, Khan promised a ban on such advertising during his re-election campaign earlier this year.
Citing the “devastating way gambling addiction can destroy lives and families,” he said during the campaign that he was in favor of prohibiting gambling ads on the Tube lines in London. Along with a look at the gambling ads, Khan is also in favor of a review of ads for “risky investments”.
In the past, similar decisions by Khan have ultimately been enacted. In 2019, he pledged to ban junk food ads on TFL in an effort to tackle childhood obesity, and it resulted in a network-wide ban on the ads.
The 2019 campaign may point to the downside of the proposed actions. TFL admits its very difficult to work out exactly what kind of impact these sorts of bans can have on the financial status of the network.
The junk food ban from 2019 is an excellent example of the challenge. While the campaign may have achieved the laudable PR goal of attacking childhood obesity, estimates are that it cost as much as £25m in lost revenue to enact the ban.
While gambling advertising certainly has issues associated with it in regards to addiction and problem gambling, it also generates a lot of revenue. The question remains whether TFL will be willing to gamble with its future revenue to enact a ban on gambling advertising.