Study Reveals Concerning Saturation of Gambling Ads Targeting UK Children

Study Reveals Concerning Saturation of Gambling Ads Targeting UK Children


A recent study commissioned by GambleAware, a charity supported by contributions from gambling firms, has shed light on the concerning saturation of gambling advertisements and gambling-like content targeting children online in the UK. Despite existing restrictions, children are reportedly encountering a barrage of betting promotions and content that blurs the lines between gambling and gaming activities.

The research, conducted through interviews with children and young people aged seven to 25, highlights the pervasive nature of gambling content in their online experiences. According to the findings, many young individuals feel overwhelmed by the prevalence of gambling promotions and content, which they encounter while engaging in various online activities.

One of the key concerns raised by the study is the difficulty children face in distinguishing between actual gambling products and games with gambling elements, such as loot boxes and free slot machine games available on platforms like Google Play. This blurred distinction is exacerbated by the use of cartoon graphics, bright colors, and sounds in gambling advertisements, which are designed to appeal to younger audiences.

Zoƫ Osmond, CEO of GambleAware, expressed worry over the normalization of gambling among children due to early exposure to such content. She emphasized the need for stricter regulations to prevent gambling advertisements from appearing in places where children can access them, calling for urgent action to protect young individuals from the potential harms associated with gambling.

Nicki Karet, managing director of Sherbert Research, which contributed to the study, echoed these concerns, emphasizing the confusion caused by the overlap between online gambling and gambling-like gaming activities. Karet stressed the need for clearer regulations and highlighted the direct targeting of children through visual and tonal expressions used in gambling advertising.

Despite existing advertising rules prohibiting gambling firms from targeting children or using promotions likely to appeal to them, instances of such practices persist. The study cited examples of gambling advertisements featuring cartoon characters and other child-friendly imagery, raising questions about the effectiveness of current regulations in safeguarding young people.

Dr. Raffaello Rossi, a marketing lecturer at Bristol University, criticized regulators for their inadequate response to the proliferation of online gambling promotions that may appeal to children. He called for the development of new advertising codes in collaboration with researchers and technology experts, suggesting that a ban on gambling advertising should be considered if current regulations fail to address the issue adequately.

The Betting and Gaming Council defended its members' efforts to enforce strict age verification and advertising rules, emphasizing a decline in young people's exposure to gambling advertisements according to data from the Gambling Commission. However, concerns remain regarding the effectiveness of these measures in protecting children from the potential harms of gambling-related content online.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) reiterated its commitment to protecting children from gambling advertising and stated that it was monitoring online gambling promotions closely. Meanwhile, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport assured the public of its vigilance in regulating emerging forms of gambling and gambling-like products to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place.

In conclusion, the findings of the study commissioned by GambleAware underscore the urgent need for stronger regulations to address the saturation of gambling advertisements and content targeting children online. With concerns mounting over the normalization of gambling among young individuals, stakeholders must collaborate to implement effective measures to protect vulnerable populations from the potential harms associated with excessive exposure to gambling-related content.

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