Gambling is rapidly becoming normalized to many children in the UK through the many ads promoting gambling, which some researchers fear would lead to higher rates of gambling later on in life. These findings were backed by new data based on a study “The effect of gambling marketing and advertising on children, young people and vulnerable adults” carried out by researchers at the University of Stirling and Ipsos Mori.
Their report identified social media, television advertising, and social influence from family and friends as some of the key drivers of motivating children to gamble as adults.
Many anti-gambling advocates are worried that the current lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic will leave many exposed to the aggressive advertising tactics of online casinos.
The report revealed that 96% of people from the 11-24 years old bracket had been exposed to gambling ads within the last four weeks. The data showed that when this happens to people at a young age they were more likely to gamble later on in life. According to the researchers, when children are consistently exposed to gambling, it reduces the likelihood of them considering gambling to be negative.
Gambling ads were first liberalized in 2005, under Tony Blair’s leadership of the Labour-led government. Their number subsequently surged, especially during live sports broadcasts. In 2019, gambling firms bowed to constant public pressure and instituted a voluntary ban on gambling ads during sports broadcasts. However, gambling ads continued unabated on social media sites like Twitter, which many fear makes the ads more likely to be seen by children.
The findings of the report showed that as many as 41,000 UK followers of gambling accounts on Twitter were likely to be under 16 years old, while 6% of those following “traditional” gambling accounts were children. When including eSports, the number increases to 17%.
Push To Reduce Online Betting Limits
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, a strong advocate for responsible gambling, stated that the report clearly showed that gambling ads have a negative impact on children by normalizing gambling, portraying it as a fun, wholesome activity without showing the downfalls of problem gambling.
Harris noted that the current lockdowns across the UK makes it more likely that children stuck at home will be exposed to gambling ads in social media. Harris is the chair of a cross-parliamentary group of MPs pushing for a £50 daily limit on wagers, at least until the lockdown ends.
Gambling firms have held firm on their stance that they are not acting irresponsibly during the lockdown, stating that they are pulling back on their advertising during the lockdown.