dice and chips on a laptop

The effect of betting adverts on social media to children and young people

Gambling marketing on social media is almost four-times more appealing to children and young people than adults, according to new research.

A study carried out by the University of Bristol found that disguised betting advertisements on Twitter were significantly more enticing to those under the age of 25.

More than 650 children, young persons and adults across the UK took part in the online survey, with 800,000 tweets from bookmakers, their affiliates and independent tipsters investigated.

The Gambling Act 2005, which is currently under review by government ministers, states that “gambling marketing must not be of particular appeal to children and young persons” and must be “obviously identifiable as such”.

But alarming revelations from the study showed that 45% of children are exposed to such advertisement on a weekly basis and around a quarter encounter it daily.

This coincides with the industry’s booming marketing spend, which has seen an increase of 56% since 2014, with 84% of this total dedicated to online strategies.

Dr Raffaello Rossi, co-lead investigator and marketing lecturer at the University of Bristol, said: “Content marketing is possibly the most dangerous form of gambling advertisement.

“It is designed in a way which absolutely bypasses our protections, and these posts tend to be humorous, and sentiment driven.

“After you see some of their tweets, you might start following them without even knowing they are a betting brand.”

These betting brands have certainly attracted a younger viewership, with 41,000 children following such accounts – despite it being illegal for them to gamble – and a third of all replies and retweets from esports tweets in 2021 coming from underage users.

When mapping different age groups’ appeal scores, the study found that content marketing was 3.9-times more appealing to children and young persons than to adults, while conventional adverts were 4.7-times less attractive to adults.

Pressure has subsequently fallen on the government to lay down further guidelines in their current review of the Gambling Act, which is set to be published this summer.

Speaking at the 2021 BeGambleAware conference, Chris Philp (Minister for Technology and Digital Economy) said: “I am confident and convinced that through the Gambling Act review and other measures taken we can protect these young people being led down the path to gambling addiction.

“I am taking great encouragement from our work with BeGambleAware and it is critical that we aren’t just protecting the gambling account, but the person behind it.”

Rossi said a definitive change to the act remains unlikely, but believes that steps can still be taken to stop gambling content reaching the public’s smart screens.

He explained: “I absolutely think that advertising should have online protection mechanisms and we actually have them on Instagram and Snapchat through sensitive control tools.

“It would mean that you must actively click yes on an advertisement to see it, and you have the chance to say no.

“This would just give people an extra second to comprehend that they are seeing a gambling advert, and I think this would in particular make content marketing far less harmful.”

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