GambleAware report: More can be done to highlight gambling risks

GambleAware has published a new interim report investigating the impact of gambling advertising and marketing among children, young people and vulnerable adults.

Results from the research found no direct examples of gambling adverts within children’s media however, researchers believe some advertising may “exploit the susceptibility, inexperience or lack of knowledge of children, young people or vulnerable adults.” 

It concluded 22% of mainstream media adverts were judged to contain elements that promoted enhanced chances of winnings or implied limited risks when gambling – with a 37% rise on Twitter.

Marc Etches, CEO, GambleAware explained: “This is an interim report, and as such it is too early to judge the impact of exposure to gambling advertising and marketing on children, young people and vulnerable adults.

“Nevertheless, the research does make important recommendations, including the need for clearer and more regular messages on gambling adverts of the risks associated with gambling, and the need to strengthen age verification processes on social media platforms.”

Acting as a first of its kind in the UK, the research was conducted by two consortia led by Ipsos MORI and the Institute for Social Marketing at the University of Stirling.

Furthermore the findings will play a role in the UK Gambling Commission’s research programme and is a key part of the new National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.

Between 2015 to 2018, the interim results state volume and spend on gambling marketing and advertising increased across all forms of media, lotteries and bookmakers in particular invested more. 

Due to many betting-based sponsorships visible within live broadcasted events, sports advertising was found to be dominant online.

The research also identified little evidence of notable consumer protection messages such as age warnings or promotion of lower-risk gambling.

Steven Ginnis, research director, Ipsos MORI said: “The research identifies the multiple touchpoints through which children, young people and vulnerable adults come in to contact with gambling marketing and advertising. 

“This stretches from the high street to the lounge and isn’t just restricted to sports.  The impact of this exposure will be fully explored in our second report.”

Individuals who participated in focus group discussions for the study highlighted the ubiquity of gambling advertising on TV, social media, on the high street and at point of sale in shops. 

Moreover, researchers identified the role of family and friends in introducing them to gambling.

“Participants in the research also spoke of a wide range of themes and features that they find appealing in gambling advertising; these features are more commonplace than the use of child-friendly images or phrases, for example the use of celebrities or the use of financial offers,” added Ginnis.

“This requires a more nuanced discussion of how best to mitigate against the risks of exposure, appeal and susceptibility to gambling advertising among these groups.”

New exposures

Emergence of new sectors such as esports introduces a new set of challenges in terms of managing exposure to gambling, along with children’s accessibility to technology and social media.

Despite no direct link between gambling and children’s media, researchers judged some of the content to contain features which might plausibly interest children and young people, including celebrity endorsement, memorable songs and catchphrases.

11% of gambling adverts in the mainstream media was found to contain content which may appeal to a younger audience.

This statistic reached as high as 59% of esports gambling content on Twitter largely due to the use of aesthetic visuals such as animated graphics.

“We welcome the publication of this interim report which contributes towards the delivery of the recently launched National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms,” stated Ian Angus, Gambling Commission.

“This research takes a significant step to address gaps in understanding of this issue and provides a clearer picture of the volume, tone and content of gambling advertising and sponsorship in Great Britain, and the extent to which children, young people and vulnerable adults are exposed to it.

The final phase of the research and subsequent findings will be published later in 2019 and will focus more on the impact of gambling marketing and advertising.