Thursday, 22 August 2019

Thousands Of Children Exposed To Social Media Gambling Ads, Study Says


A new study has found that thousands of children have been exposed to gambling ads on social media.

A study from Bristol University analysed over 800,000 tweets related to gambling, both traditional and e-Sports betting. A machine-learning algorithm then used publicly available data and discovered that 41,000 of the Twitter accounts that interacted with the tweets belonged to minors under the age of 16.

The study also found that children are more likely to respond to e-Sports advertising which makes up around 28% of interactions over social media. As a result of the study’s findings, the report’s authors have urged tech firms to incorporate better age verification tools to ensure gambling ads are not shown to children.

According to the UK Gambling Commission, it’s estimated that around 55,000 children in the UK suffer from gambling problems. Research has revealed that fruit machines are generally what first exposes children to gambling and gambling operators have been criticised for their use of advertisements where children are likely to see them.

Evidence has also shown that exposure to gambling at a young age increases the risk of them developing a gambling addiction later in life. Meanwhile, the study found that Twitter has become an important platform for gambling operators to advertise their promotions and games. In fact, leading betting sites Bet365, Betfred, Paddy Power, Ladbrokes and Coral send out an average of 78 tweets per day.

According to one of the study’s authors, the advertisements have been designed to be “widely attractive, memetic and, most importantly, shareable.” They explained that this has made it difficult for regulators to restrict and predict the targeted audience for the advertisements.

What’s more, of the gambling advertisements analysed only 0.1% of them were found to include a warning about the minimum age for betting. Under the advertising industry’s code of conduct, this is illegal and the study’s researchers even highlighted that around three-quarters of gambling advertisements broke advertising regulation in some way.

Gambling Regulation in the UK

The news comes as the UK Gambling Commission continues its crackdown on online gambling. This week, the Commission launched its 12-week consultation on credit card use at online casinos with a plan to potentially outright ban the payment method at online casinos.

The regulatory body has also launched new rules to better protect people. The new rules will see a change in how operators are required to interact with customers, particularly those who are vulnerable. In addition, new rules may require operators to regulate player spending.

Back in May, an advert for a Monopoly casino game was banned for appealing to children. The advert, which appeared on The Mirror Online, featured the board game’s mascot Rich Uncle Pennybags and was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for breaching its code.

Meanwhile, the NHS announced in June that it was opening its first-ever gambling clinic for children. The clinic offers specialist help to anyone between the ages of 13 and 25.