Back Underground: London Mayor Sadiq Khan Promises to Ban Gambling Adverts on Famous Tube Network

Author Thomas Wolf
April 13, 2021 3 min read
by Thomas Wolf

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has told voters he would ban gambling advertising on the city’s iconic London Underground network if re-elected as Mayor.

The incumbent Labour party politician is currently leading in most polls against his biggest rival, Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey, ahead of the election next month.

Among the other challengers in the Mayoral race is controversial actor and activist Laurence Fox, currently polling on about 4%.

With Khan at 45%-plus in most opinion polls right now, anything he says he might do has a realistic chance of coming through.

Harmful Advertisements

The current Mayor was in no mood to mince words about gambling in his manifesto.

“I’ve already banned body-shaming advertisements and advertisements for foods high in fat, salt and sugar on the TFL network because of their impact on the health of Londoners” it read.

“Given the devastating way gambling addiction can destroy lives and families, I’ll instruct TFL to bring forward plans to extend the ban to harmful gambling advertisements on the network”

Sadiq Khan

Whilst such a move may be popular among many Londoners, the Underground’s publicly operated controller Transport for London (TFL) may not be so happy with it.

London’s financial newspaper City AM reports that the ban on unhealthy food advertisements Mr. Khan referenced in his latest manifesto had lost TFL over £13 million ($17.8 million) a year since its introduction.

TFL’s revenue has already been stretched this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of Londoners are now working from home instead of commuting into the city on their iconic mass transport network.

Advertising pulls in roughly £150 million ($206,112) a year for TFL. It has not been publicly revealed how much of this is gambling-related, but we can expect it to be at least in the double-digit millions.

The network is currently also undergoing long-term funding discussions with the UK’s Conservative national government. Any bad news for its finances could put it in a weaker position during negotiations.

With over 1.35 billion yearly passengers on the Underground (affectionately known by locals as the Tube) every year, it’s a big news story for London’s citizens.

Wider Context

Gambling advertising bans in various places is nothing new for the UK in recent years.

As we reported recently, the long-awaited review of the Gambling Act 2005 is now in session.

A whole host of changes has been mooted, as this will be updating a law that was written over 15 years ago.

Early reports from insiders on the project indicate that one likely change may be a complete or partial ban on online casinos and betting sites sponsoring football team shirts.

If true, it would be the latest move in a round of gambling ad restrictions introduced by the government, regulator United Kingdom Gambling Commission, and even companies themselves.

Again, though, there are financial grounds for defending the practice here – especially during the uncertain economic times of the pandemic.

With ticket sales off the radar for at least half the season, gambling sponsorship can be a vital source of revenue for football teams and, even more so, lower league teams.

Exactly half of the teams in the English football league’s second-tier division, the Championship, currently have online gambling-related sponsors.

For the latest updates on online gambling regulation in the UK and all around the world, keep checking our pages!

Author Thomas Wolf

Author

Thomas Wolf

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