UK Children See Fewer TV Gambling Ads As Habits Shift

May 13, 2022
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​​​​​​​Children across the UK are seeing fewer gambling adverts on TV, but the Advertising Standards Authority is warning that the real challenge for the industry has shifted online.

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Children across the UK are seeing fewer gambling adverts on TV, but the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is warning that the real challenge for the industry has shifted online.

Despite children’s exposure to gambling ads falling from 3 to 2.2 ads per week on TV between 2010 and 2021, Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA, said the figures “don't represent the full story” as “children’s media consumption habits are changing significantly”.

The ASA is instead focused on protecting children online and will publish its findings later this year on the ads children are seeing there, including on social media as part of its “zero-tolerance approach to age-restricted ads being served to children”, Parker said.

The 2021 level of exposure represents the lowest level in 12 years and is half the peak average of 4.4 gambling ads per week in 2013, according to the ASA’s latest report on children’s exposure to age-restricted TV ads.

However, between 2010 and 2021, children’s exposure to all TV ads fell by almost two-thirds (63.5 percent) from 226.7 ads per week in 2010 to 82.8 ads per week in 2021, the lowest in the 12-year analysis period.

This means the rate of decline in children’s exposure to gambling ads on TV is actually marginally lower than the rate of decline in exposure to all TV ads.

Zoë Osmond, CEO at the charity GambleAware, said there is still much more work to be done to prevent children from seeing gambling adverts.

“Unfortunately, children’s exposure to gambling adverts hasn't fallen at the same rate as children’s overall TV viewing and overall TV advert exposure, which means that gambling adverts are becoming increasingly prominent among the adverts that children do see on TV,” Osmond said.

Osmond also pointed out that alcohol adverts had seen a more impressive decline.

Since 2011, bingo, lottery and scratchcards have consistently represented the majority of gambling TV ads seen by children, while children’s exposure to sports-betting ads has decreased from a peak in 2011 and has remained at a low level since 2019.

The ad exposure and viewing figures are based on data reported by the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB).

Trade group the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) praised the news on social media, claiming its whistle-to-whistle ban has resulted in a 97 percent drop in the number of gambling ads seen by children before 9pm on TV.

Additionally, the BGC highlighted the recent creation of its new cross-industry Ad Tech forum, which includes members from the largest online platforms and advertising bodies, aimed at improving the protection of children and vulnerable people online.

Last year, the ASA told online gambling advertisers they needed to do more to shield young people from their marketing, after an “avatar” program, which makes use of AIs that mimic the behaviour of certain types of internet users, found that six under-18 profiles received 27,395 ads for gambling, fatty foods and alcohol on 250 sites over three weeks.

There is no legal requirement for gambling advertisers to change their advertising practices in cases where more than three-quarters of a website’s expected audience are adults, but the ASA still considers it a “legitimate regulatory objective” to push for under-18 exposure to gambling on these kinds of sites to be reduced.

In the past, Parker called on advertisers to make better use of targeting tools to minimise children’s exposure to dynamically served age-restricted ads.

Separately on Thursday (May 12), the Swedish Public Health Agency updated its official view on gambling advertising, deeming it to currently be “extensive” and reaching too many children.

“Gambling advertising is probably not the main cause of gambling problems, but its impact is not negligible. It may also be larger among some groups and under certain circumstances,” the health agency said.

Jessika Spångberg, an investigator at the Swedish Public Health Agency, said “games about money are marketed and normalised in various ways. This concerns, for example, sponsorship of influencers, but also phenomena that are not touched on in the fact sheet such as casino streaming.”

Three out of four young people aged 16-17 years-old in Sweden have seen gambling advertising in the past week, according to the population study Swelogs 2021 and the "Gambling about money, young people and parents (2021)" survey.

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