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888.com to withdraw ads from London transport following tone backlash | Yogonet International

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Online casino 888.com has decided to pull its advertisements from various locations across London, including the capital’s transport network, following a wave of criticism over their tone. The move comes amidst a contentious mayoral race where incumbent Sadiq Khan faces scrutiny for allowing these ads to run in the first place.

The decision to withdraw the adverts follows backlash from various quarters, including Khan’s Conservative rival Susan Hall, who expressed bewilderment at Transport for London’s (TfL) decision to greenlight the campaign.

Hall said: “Sadiq Khan’s inconsistency in what adverts he allows and what ones he bans is baffling for Londoners. We need a common sense, clear approach to this, not one that allows the mayor … to play favourites.”

The advertisements, which featured slogans like “This carriage is now a casino” on the London Underground, trains, and buses, raised concerns about promoting online casino games, which according to according to NHS survey data are associated with higher rates of harm compared to other forms of gambling. 

Prof Henrietta Bowden-Jones, who oversees the National Problem Gambling Clinic, expressed concern after seeing one of the ads on the tube.

In a letter to TfL’s commissioner, Andrew Lord, the House of Lords group Peers for Gambling Reform, criticized the “aggressive” ads, saying they contradicted Khan’s manifesto pledge to ban gambling ads on London’s transport network.

TfL defended its decision by stating that the 888 ads were compliant with advertising regulations and its own policies, arguing that they did not “trivialize gambling.” However, the inconsistency in allowing these ads while blocking promotions for items like artisanal cheese and strawberries and cream on the grounds that they promoted unhealthy eating raised eyebrows among critics.

The decision by 888.com to withdraw the ads comes after mounting pressure and scrutiny. The company acknowledged that while its campaigns were compliant with regulations, they could be interpreted differently from the intended brand image.

An 888 spokesperson stated: “We continuously listen to feedback regarding the effectiveness of our advertising campaigns and acknowledge that, whilst fully compliant with all advertising regulations and standards, our latest campaign could be interpreted in a different manner to the brand position we aim for.”

888.com has received some of the largest fines in the history of the British betting industry, including a £9.4m ($12.6 million) penalty in 2022 for multiple failings that led to customers racking up huge losses during the depths of the Covid crisis.

Notably, TfL’s acceptance of gambling ads contrasts with its stance on promoting unhealthy food items, as evidenced by previous bans on advertisements featuring high-fat, high-sugar, or high-salt foods. Comedian Ed Gamble even had to replace a hotdog with a cucumber in a poster for his tour to comply with TfL’s regulations.

The broader issue of gambling advertising has drawn attention across the UK, with more than 80 councils taking measures to restrict such promotions. In response to the controversy, a spokesperson for London Labour emphasized ongoing policy work and an independent review commissioned by City Hall to address harmful gambling practices.

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