Gambling Ad Exposure Linked To Participation, UK Review Says

January 30, 2023
There is evidence that more advertising exposure increases gambling participation and leads to greater risk of harm, according to a new piece of research.


There is evidence that more advertising exposure increases gambling participation and leads to a greater risk of harm, according to a new piece of research.

The review of evidence that advertising policies could affect gambling-related harms was undertaken by researchers at the University of Sheffield, the University of Glasgow and Imperial College London.

Researchers found "there was more evidence for the impact on children and young people and for those already at risk from current gambling activity with those most vulnerable more likely to be influenced".

The review concludes by suggesting that gambling advertising restrictions could reduce overall harm and mitigate the impact of advertising on gambling-related inequalities.

"Public health harm prevention strategies should include policies which limit exposure to advertising, particularly among children and vulnerable groups," the researchers said.

The report was published in the Journal of Public Health and analysed eight systematic reviews and more than 70 studies. It is self-described as an "umbrella review of relevant systematic reviews which included primary studies of the impact of gambling advertising".

Findings from the review follow other recent drives by public health officials in the UK to address gambling policy.

In a review that concluded this month, the now-dissolved Public Health England (PHE) called for more to be done to prevent and reduce the harms associated with gambling.

In December 2022, Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England who oversaw COVID-19 policy, called the necessary evidence base surrounding gambling harm "much weaker" than other public health areas, and that there may need to be a change in the approach to addressing harm.

The most common arguments against severe advertising restrictions in the UK are the impact of the industry's self-regulating efforts and the fear that restrictions could drive consumers to black-market operators.

For instance, under the voluntary Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) "Whistle-to-Whistle" ban by members, TV betting commercials for regulated operators cannot be shown from five minutes before a match kicks off until five minutes after it ends, before the 9pm watershed.

A recent update by the trade group revealed that during the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup, 250,000 people visited unregulated, black-market sites compared with around 80,000 during the same month the previous year, with a similar jump in November.

The data came from research undertaken by Yield Sec and found that, in a two-month period alone, more than 64,500 vulnerable players searched for black-market sites offering betting that circumvented GAMSTOP.

Ismail Vali, founder and CEO of Yield Sec, said: "This trend of increased illegal gambling activity during prominent sporting events reflects the ever-present threat that illegal operators pose to players and the audience."

Meanwhile, the BGC noted: "The number of TV betting adverts … during the World Cup group stages fell by 34 percent compared to the World Cup in 2018, figures have revealed."

On the other side of the debate, James Grimes, who heads up Gambling with Lives' The Big Step campaign against gambling advertising and sponsorship in football, said: "There's now an abundance of evidence that clearly links advertising to addiction, as the millions of us harmed by gambling already know.

"The gambling industry spends £1.5bn a year on marketing — infecting our screens, our sports, and our streets with a misleading representation of addictive gambling products. It has to stop. The public is expecting the government to impose tough advertising restrictions in the forthcoming white paper. Anything less would be a betrayal to a generation of young people."

A less scientific poll on whether gambling ads should be banned was recently conducted on Twitter by TV personality Martin Lewis, known for helping consumers save money.

Out of 106,489 votes, Lewis said 82.7 percent of respondents supported a ban. Of these respondents, 24 percent said they gambled and 58.7 percent said they did not.

Only 8 percent who gambled said no to a ban, compared with 9.4 percent who claimed to not gamble.

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