Betting And Gambling Advertising Bills Are Criticized

In March 2021, two amendments to the RA Law on Advertising were proposed at once, both of which refer to the restrictions on advertising betting and gambling.

The simultaneous circulation of the two amendments to the Law on Advertising became the subject of discussion in the field of advertising and media.

Against “propaganda of gambling and betting”

Back in 2019, at the NA sitting, the draft law “On Making Addenda and Amendments to the Law on Advertising” initiated by “My Step” faction MP Hrachya Hakobyan and the Law on Gambling, Internet Gambling and Casinos were adopted, according to which the media was restricted from advertising bookmakers.

Commenting on the bill, the MP noted that the need arose to combat “gambling and betting propaganda.”

The main change was that the advertising of betting and gambling on the websites should not exceed the limit of 20% on the website.

About two years later, this very change in the law was reformulated once again.

The draft law “On Making Amendments to the Law on Advertising,” which passed the first reading in the National Assembly on March 24, 2021, proposed to apply an hourly limit to the betting advertisements through news websites instead of the 20% volume limit of the website, providing that news websites betting advertisements can be placed from 22:00 to 07:00.

The project was presented in the parliament by the RA Deputy Minister of Finance Armen Hayrapetyan.

According to the comment of the Ministry of Finance, such a change is substantiated by the fact that it has not been possible to control the percentage of advertisements on news websites so far. And now the control will be exercised by the State Revenue Committee through monitoring.

Astghik Sapeyan, editor-in-chief of 1in.am, says that this project will be painful for the media, as the advertisers of the websites are mainly betting companies.

“I think such a fight against gambling is useless because advertising will be on other platforms as well. In other words, as the specialists in the field note, the advertising will work one way or another, it will simply be a non-Armenian advertisement,” said Sapeyan.

“A1+” producer Susanna Ohanjanyan does not share the opinion that such restrictions on betting advertising on news sites will help fight against gambling.

“I do not think anyone enters the site to read the news, then enters to play games, almost all news sites are accessed by people from about 90% of social networks, the player will not enter the betting site through the media, it is just ridiculous. I think the ads on the websites for those companies are only for image’s sake and are not a source of traffic. If they really think that our situation is catastrophic, then other measures are needed.”

Yana Yanikyan, media director of Media Systems advertising company, is puzzled that this law has been changed twice, but there has never been any discussion with the representatives of the advertising market.

“The time limit will not produce any benefit, this is a decision unaware of the sphere. This law has a number of problems and shortcomings, both economic and legal. With the adoption of the project, the field will appear in a terrible situation. It is no secret that the main source of funding for the media is advertising, most of which is generated by betting advertising. Losing financial inflows, the media will have a budget decline, so they will either have to close down or cut jobs,” she said.

According to Yana Yanikyan, in the unfavorable economic situation in Armenia, this decision contains many risks and creates an open field for foreign betting companies, and the advertising budget can simply flow to foreign markets.

Amendment N2

On March 4, another bill on making changes in the law on advertising was put up for public discussion by the Ministry of Finance on еdraft.am website.

This bill proposes to ban in general any kind of advertising on the radio, television or the Internet, gambling, internet gambling, casino, gambling hall, totalizator or their organizers.

The justification section of the draft law states that taking into account the lack of public benefit and public harm as a result of the increase in the volume of Internet gambling games, as well as the exclusion of discriminatory state policy towards gambling, casinos and gambling houses, it was necessary to make appropriate changes and additions to the RA Law on Advertising.

It is proposed to make relevant amendments to Article 15 of the law, as a result of which the same restrictions will apply to Internet gambling and bookmaker advertisements as apply to gambling and casino advertising.

The bill is expected to “protect the rights and interests of consumers, prevent activities that threaten to cause moral or material harm to individuals and keep vulnerable groups at risk of gambling, taking into account the social situation of the population and gambling for themselves and the often-encountered reality of putting their families in dire financial straits in order to limit citizens’ immediate access to gambling.”

Yana Yanikyan, Media Director of Media Systems Advertising Company, says that when the law was changed last time and there were restrictions on gambling advertising for all media outlets, the media suffered considerable losses.

“Last year was very difficult for the media – epidemic, war, economic downturn, against the background of all this, the media hardly survives as is, the whole ban will have catastrophic consequences,” she said.

“I hope it will not be banned at all, because then the media will naturally start to depend on other sources, and many will be shut down. In general, the ban will not only affect the freedom of the media but will also put many on the verge of bankruptcy,” said Astghik Sapeyan, editor-in-chief of 1in.am.

Two weeks were given to discuss the project on Еdraft.am. The opinions presented in the section of project proposals also repeat the already mentioned concerns of the representatives of the media field.

It is clear from the comments of Chance Media LLC (Chanson Radio) and Ardzagank ST LLC (Radio Marshall Radio Program) that they are also against the adoption of this project and find that a more detailed study is needed.

Representatives of the media and advertising sector hope that in case of adoption of this project, at least this time their opinion will be taken into account, possible risks and problems will be discussed with all stakeholders.

Mane Grigoryan

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