GambleAware urges action on underage ad exposure

Problem gambling funding body GambleAware has called for more action to help protect against gambling-related harm, after a new report highlighted the dangers of advertising and marketing exposure among children, young people and vulnerable people.

Led by Ipsos Mori and the Institute for Social Marketing at the University of Stirling, the research programme focused on a mixed mode survey carried out among 1,091 young people between 21 May and 13 September last year.

According to the report, regular exposure to gambling promotions can change perceptions and associations of gambling over time for children, young people and vulnerable adults.

Researchers found that 96% of 11-24-year-old participants had been exposed to gambling marketing messages in the last month, while those that were shown parts of gambling logos were able correctly identify an average of eight out of 10.

The report said this early exposure was a key factor as to whether a young person was likely to gamble in the future. If they had a close friend or carer that gambles, they were six times more likely to be a current gambler than those without such a connection.

Television was the main source of gambling adverts, with 85% of those aged 11-24 reporting seeing ads, while 70% of children and young people saw adverts in betting shops on the high street, window displays and promotions on shop floors and near tills.

Those aged between 18 to 24 had higher exposure to gambling during sports events, on smartphone apps, through merchandise, gambling websites, emails and from word of mouth.

The report also highlighted the level of adverts on social media, with 66% of the respondents seeing gambling promotions on such channels. These were most likely to be video adverts while watching clips on YouTube or ads appearing while scrolling through Facebook feeds.

As part of the report, the Centre for Analysis of Social Media at Demos collected and analysed gambling tweets over a period of time. Some 888,000 tweets were sent from 417 gambling-related accounts over a nine-month period in 2018, with 825,000 followers of these accounts located within the UK.

In addition, the report found that a total of 1.6m tweets sent from the UK had mentioned one of the 417 gambling-related accounts by name.

Having analysed the research, researchers at Ipsos MORI identified a number of recommendations to help protect children, young people and vulnerable adults from experiencing gambling harms.

These included the need for clearer safer gambling messages and campaigns, to increase the awareness of risk of gambling to children and young people. Ipsos MORI also called for enhanced safer gambling education initiatives, extending to parents.

Other recommendations were for a reduction in the appeal of gambling adverts by addressing specific features that may appeal to children, such as celebrities or humour, while also avoiding any references to confusing financial incentives.

In addition, Ipsos Mori researchers called for an improved use of advertising technology and age screening tools to help minimise the exposure of content to children, young people and vulnerable adults.

“Gambling is an adult activity, but this new research conclusively shows that it has become part of everyday life for children and young people,” GambleAware chief executive Marc Etches said.

“The exposure to gambling on social media suggests there is a clear need for social media companies to improve age screening tools and for gambling companies to make full use of existing ones, to help protect children from potential harmful exposure to gambling.

“We must always be mindful that gambling is a public health issue and it can have serious implications for people’s mental health.”

Steve Ginnis, research director at Ipsos Mori, added: “The research points to the ubiquitous nature of gambling advertising, beyond sports and beyond television; and further demonstrates that the impact of exposure goes beyond traditional selling techniques that elicit an immediate response.

“The evidence captured in this research suggests that there is value in taking further action to reduce exposure and appeal of gambling advertising, which in turn is likely to help mitigate against the plausible risk of gambling-related harms among children, young people and vulnerable adults.”

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