UK study reveals young people’s exposure to gambling ads

UK study reveals young people’s exposure to gambling ads

By IAGR Media

An interim report in the United Kingdom has taken significant steps towards providing a clear picture of the volume, tone and content of gambling marketing, and the extent to which children, young people and vulnerable adults are exposed to it. The impact of this exposure will be fully explored in a second report, due out later this year.

This research, which is the first of its kind in the UK, is part of the Gambling Commission’s research programme and contributes towards the delivery of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.

'Understanding more about gambling advertising and marketing and the extent to which children, young people and vulnerable adults are exposed to it will enable us to apply our regulatory tools and levers more effectively to prevent harm to vulnerable consumers,' says Ben Haden, Programme Director at the Gambling Commission.

'Through the Strategy we will also work in partnership with other regulators and accountable bodies to prevent any unfair practices and inappropriate advertising which present an increased risk of harm.'

Gambling marketing – and children’s exposure to it

The report found that, between 2015 and 2018, the volume and spend on gambling marketing is on the rise in the UK across different forms of media, including TV and radio.

The research identified 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 home and online. 

Where TV is concerned, data released by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) show that children’s exposure to gambling ads on the box has been declining after peaking in 2013. If they do see gambling ads on TV, it’s more likely to be for bingo or lotteries, or during live sport.

While the research found no examples of gambling adverts being placed within children’s media, much of the content contained features which might appeal directly to children and young people, including celebrity endorsement, memorable songs and catchphrases.

The research also found that children are currently not being actively screened out from receiving online gambling ads, and are able to follow and engage with betting-related accounts on Twitter. 

Clear areas for action for gambling industry

Ben Haden shares his thoughts around the steps UK gambling companies should now take to reduce the risk of their ads being seen by young people.

'Gambling companies are required to comply with the UK Advertising Codes, which are enforced by the ASA. In particular, they must ensure that their ads are never directed at, or are of particular appeal to, under 18s.

'We expect companies to utilise all available audience data, and harness the latest online targeting technologies and screening tools, to reduce the likelihood of their ads being seen by children. We are keen for companies to collaborate in this space and share good practice.'

Online advertising presents challenges globally

While the Gambling Commission is obviously focused on ensuring children and young people in the UK are protected from potential harm caused by gambling advertising, Ben says they recognise that online advertising presents similar challenges to regulators across the world.

'We have good relationships with international gambling regulators and we routinely review issues of shared interest or concern, including advertising.

'More generally, the online landscape itself presents risks for children and young people, and that is why we welcome the government’s plans, as set out in the Online Harms White Paper, for a world-leading package of online safety measures, including a new independent regulator for online safety.'

Marketing isn’t the only influence on young people’s gambling habits

According to Ben, there are many factors at play which may influence young people to gamble including parental and peer influence, sponsorships, social media and online gambling-style games.

'Whilst online gambling style games such as roulette, poker, slots or bingo are not considered as gambling by law as you cannot win a real money prize, they do represent a possible route into gambling particularly for young people and are therefore another influential factor to consider.'

The Gambling Commission’s Young People and Gambling Survey 2018 revealed the following stats:

On parental influence:

  • 60% of 11-16 year olds said they thought their parents would prefer them not to gamble for money at all
  • 52% of those who had ever spent money on gambling were with their parents the last time they gambled
  • 26% of young people had ever seen their parents or guardians gamble, with 2% saying they see them gamble every day
  • 6% of young people who had gambled in the last 12 months said it was because it was what their parents do
  • With the National Lottery, 21% of 11-15 year olds stated they play because their parents or family members do

On peer influence:

  • 45% of respondents were with their friends the last time they spent money on gambling
  • Of those 11-16 year olds who had gambled in the last 12 months, 5% said they gambled because it’s what their friends do

On sponsorship influence:

  • 49% of 11-16 year olds reported having seen or heard gambling sponsorships on TV or radio
  • 46% have seen gambling sponsorship at sports venues
  • Of those who have seen gambling advertising or sponsorships, 7% go on to say this has prompted them to spend money on gambling that they weren’t otherwise planning to

On social media influence:

  • As well as being exposed to gambling ads on social media, 12% of 11-16 year olds also follow gambling companies on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram
  • These people are three times more likely to have spent their own money on gambling in the last seven days compared to those who do not follow any gambling companies on social media

On online gambling-style games influence:

  • 13% of 11-16 year olds have ever played online gambling-style games
  • Of these, 40% said they played online gambling-style games before they gambled for money compared to only 25% who gambled for money first.


A growing concern

With the recent news that a number of new gambling addiction clinics for children will open in the UK, as 55,000 children are estimated as having a serious gambling problem; clearly this is an area which will remain an ongoing focus for the Gambling Commission and one which regulators across the globe should keep a close eye on.

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