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UK Children Still Exposed to Gambling Adverts, a Demos and Bristol University Study Reveals

- August 21, 2019 By Oliver Young -

The underage exposure to gambling seemed to be taken under control at the beginning of the year, as reported by the UKASA. In February, the UK Advertising Standards Authority reported that its study showed that children’s exposure to gambling ads was dropping, being 37.3% lower than in 2013.

However, five months later, a study by Ipsos Mori, commissioned by GambleAware, showed awful results. The study discovered that over 40,000 underage individuals were following gambling-related Twitter accounts, and these underage children were being exposed to gambling-related ads. Now, a new study carried by a team from the University of Bristol and Demos confirmed this underage exposure.

A study commissioned by Demos and carried by the University of Bristol’s Department of Management showed that 28% of replies and retweets to gambling-related accounts came from underage children.

A study commissioned by Demos and carried by the University of Bristol’s Department of Management showed that 28% of replies and retweets to gambling-related accounts came from underage children.

A New Study on Gambling Ads

The think tank university team analysed 888,000 messages posted on Twitter over the nine months last year. Their findings were terrifying. Not only 41,000 UK followers of gambling-related accounts were under 16, but 13,000 of them had interactions, such as retweets and replies, with betting accounts.

Most of these children were interacting with accounts related to eSports, more precisely to competitive game tournaments. Therefore, the study discovered that they were particularly likely to respond to ads that promoted some sort of competition. 28% of the interactions were for this type of content.

But that’s not the most terrifying news. The UK Gambling Commission estimated that 55,000 underage players are already problem gamblers. Most of them are slots players, but the ads for sports betting were influential enough to motivate many children to start betting on sports. The ads on social media and during football matches seemed to have left the biggest impact on underage players.

As the team of researchers said, the content in these ads by giant operators like Coral, Bet365, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power was designed to be attractive, shareable and memetic – keyword: shareable. As a result, the audience for that message was difficult to predict and restrict.

The Actual Regulations on Ads

Last summer, the UK Gambling Commission announced its plans to protect children better, especially from online risks. It has introduced several further measures to limit the gambling advertising and has even proposed a complete gambling ban, which is still on the table, in the hands of another commission to decide for it.

And despite all this, the Demos and Bristol University researchers only found 0.1% of the social media gambling ads that displayed a warning about the minimum age for gambling and placing bets. And even though the advertising code of conduct explicitly says that marketing communications must be identifiable as such, many of the ads the researchers found and assessed did not do that. In fact, the researchers’ notes were that 74% of the gambling ads were presenting gambling as a form of an income source, encouraging players to gamble more, and were displaying people under 25 years old.

Besides, the team reported that three-quarters of the gambling ads were breaking the advertising industry regulation, in one way or another. Considering the fact that Twitter has become an essential platform for leading operators to promote to potential players, and as reported, they are sending an average of 78 tweets daily, this exposure to unlawful ads will only make things worse for British underage citizens.

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