Technology the solution to underage gambling exposure

9 July 2019

New research into gambling marketing and advertising has suggested that operators could be doing more to ensure promotional material is socially responsible and does not appeal to minors.

The findings emerged from the first stage of a far-reaching investigation into gambling advertising, based on focus group discussions with children, young people and vulnerable individuals.

Participants highlighted the prevalence of gambling advertising on TV, on social media, on the high street and in shops. In particular, the emergence of new game types such as esports was flagged as presenting a new set of challenges in how exposure to gambling is to be managed.

Other contributory factors, such as the role of family and friends in introducing people to gambling, were also flagged as something to be monitored.

The research project was commissioned by GambleAware and carried out by polling specialist Ipsos More and the University of Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing. It is being conducted as part of the GB Gambling Commission’s research programme, a key element of its National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.

The study found that gambling advertising spend across different media channels is on the rise, with bookmakers and lotteries the heaviest spenders. Advertising for sportsbooks was particularly prevalent online, complemented by brand exposure gained through sports sponsorship agreements.

While none of this advertising was placed directly within children’s media, such as popular websites, researchers noted that much of the content contained elements that were likely to appeal to minors.


This ranged from celebrity endorsements, catchy jingles and catchphrases, with 11% of all gambling advertising containing such content. For esports gambling on Twitter, it was found that 59% of advertising content contained elements likely to appeal to minors, due to many featuring animated-style graphics.

“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,” Ipsos Mori research director Steven Ginnis noted.

Children are not actively screened out from receiving online gaming adverts, and are able to follow and engage with betting-related accounts on Twitter, according to the study. As such, researchers said, operators could use existing technology to better manage underage exposure to gambling ads.

Focus group participants also showed mixed levels of awareness and understanding of safer gambling messaging. Research carried out as part of the project also identified little evidence of prominent consumer protection messaging, such as age warnings or promotion of lower-risk gambling, suggesting operators could do more to clearly highlight the risks associated with gambling.

In fact, researchers found that some advertising may exploit viewers susceptibility, inexperience or lack of knowledge. More than a fifth (22%) of media ads were judged to imply there was limited risk to customers from gambling, or inflated chances of winning. For Twitter ads, 37% were viewed to be at fault.

GambleAware chief executive Marc Etches said that given it was an interim report, it was too early to judge the impact of exposure to gambling advertising 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,” he added.

The final phase of the research project will focus more on the impact of gambling advertising, and is to be published later in 2019.
 
“We await the findings of the second phase report with interest,” Ian Angus, programme director for consumer protection and empowerment for the GB Gambling Commission, said.

“In the meantime, we are pleased to see that the report identifies clear areas for action that gambling firms can take now and we therefore expect them to redouble their efforts to address public concerns about the volume and nature of gambling advertising and sport sponsorship.”