This new policy took effect from today (15 June). It will apply to the group’s websites, apps, audio, video and newsletters, as well as print advertisements in the Guardian and Observer newspapers and Guardian Weekly.
Anna Bateson, Guardian Media Group chief executive, has pinned the decision on what she calls “the devastating impact of the gambling industry in the UK and Australia” that Guardian journalists have reported on.
The group also had concerns “with the pervasive nature of retargeted digital advertisements that trap a portion of sports fans in an addictive cycle”.
Host of reasons
Bateson said that a number of reasons impacted the group’s decision. These include the Guardian’s report that approximately $25bn (£19.7bn/€23bn) is lost to gambling annually, the Premier League’s agreement to ban gambling company sponsorships as the main shirt sponsor and that gamblers in Australia will soon be banned from using credit cards for online betting.
Bateson said that the “nature of lotteries” means that lotteries will not be included in this ban.
“We understand and respect that millions of our readers, including our reporters and staff, are passionate sports fans who may occasionally choose to engage in gambling as part of their sporting experience,” Bateson went on to add.
“It is a matter of personal freedom, and we have no issue with that. We fully support the enjoyment of sports and respect individuals’ choices to participate in occasional gambling on football, horse racing, or any other sport.”
The chief executive further stated that the Guardian is committed to responsible advertising practices.
“High quality advertising is welcome on our platforms, and plays an important role in helping to fund the Guardian’s journalism, something more and more brands and agencies mention in our conversations,” she said.
“They want to advertise within trusted media environments that represent the values of their audiences.”
The group also pointed to its similar decision in 2020 to no longer carry advertising from oil and gas companies.
An interesting precedent
Julia Logan, SEO consultant, believes that the Guardian’s new policy sets an interesting precedent and raises new questions for the future of gambling advertising.
“As of now, it appears from the article that the Guardian’s main concern is the pervasive nature of retargeted advertising causing harm to problem gamblers,” said Logan. “It’s very noble of them to address that concern in such a manner, but it’s an altogether different matter from the issue we are seeing in the SERPs.”
Logan explained how the Guardian’s decision “draws attention to the fact that large media have certain social responsibilities”.
“Would other large media be pressured into changing their attitude towards gambling content?” she asked. “Will governments take any regulatory steps to limit the media’s ability to engage in practices like renting its space to gambling super affiliates?
“Or perhaps with the advent of anti-advertising regulations for gambling in many countries, will the practice be seen as a form of advertising to be addressed by the regulators?”
Short-lived go at gambling
The Guardian’s new stance comes some years after a white-label partnership with tech stack FSB Technology. This partnership lasted for one year.
The partnership saw the Guardian launch GoWager in February 2014. GoWager ran on the Guardian website, but was closed 12 months later due to criticism from its readership of the partnership.
In November 2021, GoWager closed its brand for sports betting and casino services.
Julia Logan will be hosting a session at iGB L!VE on 13 July in Amsterdam. She’ll be expanding on her featured article on the rise of big media up the SERPs.