In a significant regulatory shift in October 2020, the Ghana Gaming Commission announced a ban on the use of celebrities in gambling advertisements. This landmark decision emerged amid growing concerns about the influential role of public figures in promoting betting activities. The Commission’s move was primarily aimed at curbing the allure of gambling among impressionable youth, who often view celebrities as role models.

The Commission’s directive was clear: “Operators shall not use celebrities in their advertisements to entice the general public to gamble.” 

This move echoes a similar action taken by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) in 2015, which banned the use of celebrities for advertising alcoholic products. The FDA directive stipulated that “no well-known personality or professional shall be used in alcoholic beverage advertising.”

The FDA’s ban sparked a legal challenge from music producer Mark Darlington Osae. Osae argued that the ban constituted “discrimination against persons on grounds of social or economic status, or occupation, among others,” rendering it null, void, and unenforceable. This case is set to be heard by the Supreme Court on January 17.

DKB’s Criticism of the Bans

Recently, popular Ghanaian stand-up comedian and TV presenter Derick Kobins Bonney, also known as DKB, has vocally criticized the Gaming Commission of Ghana and the FDA for their respective bans. During a Q&A session with TV3 Ghana, DKB highlighted the futility of the betting advertisement ban, pointing out that children are still exposed to betting through other mediums like billboards, TV, radio, and online platforms. 

He noted the inconsistency in regulations, stating, “It’s just sad. It’s like being a celebrity in Ghana is an act of treason, where the whole country is against you, not only the FDA. The Gaming Commission says celebrities shouldn’t promote gaming and betting because it corrupts children. Fine, but we still have betting ads on billboards, TVs, radios, and online. Don’t children go online? You said such ads should be shown after 8 pm, but children are still awake after 8 pm. They see billboards in town. It’s ridiculous.”

DKB’s Call for Fair Use of Celebrities in Education

DKB further criticized the FDA’s ban for lacking proper research and evidence, suggesting it was an attempt to impoverish Ghanaian celebrities. He proposed that the FDA should leverage celebrities to educate children on responsible alcohol consumption. He emphasized the need for decisions to be based on empirical data and the role celebrities can play in delivering positive messages: 

“In any case, if you want to protect children, it is the celebrities who you need to use to protect children. We need to tell children not to consume alcohol because it’s for 18 and above; don’t do this, don’t do that. They listen to us more.”

DKB’s comments highlight the complex interplay between advertising regulations, celebrity influence, and public perception in Ghana, sparking a broader debate on effective and fair advertising practices. In addition, the country is also facing criticism over introducing a 10% tax on betting and lottery winnings. These ongoing controversies underscore the need for a balanced approach in regulatory frameworks that considers the economic implications while safeguarding societal values and protecting vulnerable groups.

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