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GambleAware Release Interim Report on Advertising

by Glenn Baird - July 10, 2019

Overview

Yesterday, the 9th of July, GambleAware released a report on the impact of gambling advertising on children, young adults and vulnerable people in the UK. The report was commissioned in March of last year and was compiled in partnership with various universities across the UK.

Research took several forms: from focus groups containing children, young adults and vulnerable gamblers; to surveys and different types of direct analysis. Social Media (predominantly Twitter), TV advertising, sporting sponsorships, in game purchases and click through data provided by the industry were all used to help with the report’s findings and the conclusions that were drawn from it.

Findings

The report found that between 2015 and 2018 there has been a 24% increase in the estimated spend on gambling advertising in the UK. The report was keen to point out that those figures do not include online advertising “for which there is limited trend data available”.

Whilst there were spikes in the amount of advertising used during certain sporting events, such as Cheltenham and the World Cup, in other sports, such as tennis and rugby there has been a decrease, with no advertising at all found during Formula 1.

The biggest spenders, outside of online advertising, are not casinos or sportsbooks, but lottery companies, with a significant rise in the amount of eSport advertising on Twitter. It is important to note that “further research is required to establish how many of these accounts are licenced gambling operators, and to establish the context in which people are engaging with this content.”

No evidence was found to suggest that there is any gambling advertising present in children’s media, including popular online publications. However, this does not mean that there is no exposure for young people who can still witness gambling advertising on TV, on the high street and on certain websites and social media.

Social Media Concerns

Perhaps the most damning find within the report is the number of young people who actively follow and engage with related accounts on Twitter. Using an age classifier it is estimated that roughly 41000 children under the age of 16 following gambling related accounts on Twitter. The report highlighted that more needs to be done to prevent young people from following gambling related accounts as easily as they currently do. GambleAware also state that more should be done by operators to prevent their advertisements appearing on accounts that are likely to be owned by children and young people.

The report also established that whilst there are no clear targeted advertisements aimed at children and vulnerable people that some of the themes and features used by the industry could be deemed appealing to them. The use of certain celebrities to spearhead advertising campaigns, animated characters, the use of bright colours, humour, glamour, memorable songs or phrases, offers and the implication of skill being required to win are amongst some of the issues that the report highlighted. This was elaborated on further to emphasise that appeal should not be defined in “binary” and that each advertisement should be scrutinised individually to determine its appeal to young and vulnerable people.

Suggested Solutions

Possible solutions offered involved the software itself, with automatic exclusions for certain profiles and with more frequent references to the risk involved when gambling. The application of existing regulations within the eSports market along with a more stringent approach from regulators was mentioned, along with an more active role within education.

The report also called for further research to be implemented to develop the work that they had begun, especially within online advertising and social media with an increased analysis of eSports.

In the final stages of research those involved in the report will spend more time looking at the impact of advertising and the gambling market, details of which will be released later this year.

Quotes

The following statement from was made by GambleAware CEO Marc Etches:

“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.”

The Gambling Commission’s Ian Angus has said:

“We welcome the publication of this interim report which contributes towards the delivery of the recently launched National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms. 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.

We await the findings of the second phase report with interest. 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.”

And finally, Steven Ginnis, Research Director at Ipsos MORI has 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. 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. 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.”