Companies are not doing enough to stop exposure to gambling ads on social media according to new research
A new major study has branded gambling companies as “irresponsible”. The study found that firms are not doing enough to prevent children from seeing their adverts online, especially on Twitter.
Ipsos Mori, who lead the research, found that an estimated 41,000 children under 16 follow gambling-related accounts, and that children replied to or retweeted those accounts 13,000 times.
The study also showed that between 2015 and 2018 betting firms increased their spending on paid advertising spots by 24%, to a staggering £329m per year.
Though children were not being directly targeted in these cases, the report said some of the ads included features likely to appeal to them.
In recent months the UK has seen a crack down on gambling ads, with several being banned Advertising Standards Authority, on the grounds that may be appealing to children.
This study follows figures that emerged several months ago suggesting, a rise in numbers of child problem gamblers to 50,000 – and recently, the UK’s first gambling addiction clinic for children was opened.
Recently a number of the UK’s largest bookmakers and online casino firms promised to invest more in addiction treatment and to curb adverts on TV, in an effort to protect vulnerable people and children from the effects of problem gambling and online casinos.
Though reducing the number of TV ads is a start, the research in this study highlighted the prevalence of gambling adverts on the internet, particularly social media sites like Twitter.
As part of their study, researchers created 11 “avatars” – or fake internet user profiles – with identities like a “child under 13” and “problem gambler”, using browsing history.
Both avatars saw more gambling adverts than a neutral avatar with no browsing history. The “child under 13” avatar also saw more online gambling adverts per month than the adult with a gambling problem.
The report concluded that there was “no evidence” that advertisers had taken significant steps to screen out children and gambling addicts.
The researchers went on to say there was “little evidence” of responsible gambling messages being promoted online. In 2018, 888,745 tweets were analysed over nine months, only 7% contained a responsible gambling message.
Many of the online and TV adverts analysed by the report contained features likely to appeal to children, celebrities or cartoon-like characters.
“Content which may appeal to children and young people was found in 11% of mainstream media gambling adverts and 59% of eSports gambling content on Twitter,” the report said.
Tom Watson, the Labour deputy leader, said: “It’s no wonder we have so many children gambling when irresponsible gambling companies are placing adverts that appeal to kids.
“The explosion of gambling advertising in recent years is fuelling problem gambling. If we are going to tackle addiction we need to start by tackling adverts.”
This report is an interim report as part of a longer study commissioned by GambleAware, a leading gambling charity in the UK. The final report aims to chart the impact gambling ads are having on children.