Sky, which is now owned by the major US media and telecommunications group Comcast, after the £ 30 billion acquisition was fought with the Murdoch family and Disney, voluntarily restricts gambling advertising to claims for regulation be enforced.
Betting companies themselves, including the owner of Ladbrokes, have requested a ban on television advertising before 9pm. This would save them tens of millions of pounds a year and give road operators a boost against online rivals such as Bet365 and Betfair.
The industry has put money into advertising since the Labor government lifted the stringent rules in 2007. According to research by market research firm Nielsen, the industry spent a total of £ 1.4 billion on advertising between 2012 and 2017. Of this, £ 430m was spent to promote gambling in sport, almost doubling from £ 64m in 2012 to £ 127m in 2016.
Steven van Rooyen, Chief Executive of Sky's UK arm, said, "Our clients are worried about promoting gambling on TV – and we understand their concerns. For this reason, we have committed ourselves to limiting the number of gambling ads on Sky and protecting those vulnerable to hassle-free gambling. "
He also called for action against online gambling ads on Google and Facebook, which are almost completely unregulated. According to the Gambling Commission, every tenth child follows social media accounts from betting companies. Mr van Rooyen said that while television has made television a "safe haven", "online is still a real threat – and it will take until online platforms become as tightly regulated as television."
Sky has benefited from the British gambling boom. In addition to advertising, it was a major shareholder of the private label operator Sky Bet, which was sold to a Canadian rival this year for £ 3.4bn.
Sky's decision to restrict gambling advertisements this weekend raised hope among activists for a broader effort to curb addiction. The charity Money and Mental Health said it will increase the "momentum in all industries to tackle problem gambling".
Competing sports broadcaster BT said, "Although we have already limited the number of gambling ads displayed on our channels, we will continue to review our approach to advertising bookmakers and work closely with ASA and other appropriate stakeholders. In addition, we support Gambleaware's initiative to highlight responsible gaming through a campaign running on BT Sport and other broadcasters. "