Gambling adverts need to be more transparent with their messaging, according to the findings of a GambleAware commissioned research project.

The report, produced by market research company Ipsos MORI, is the first of a two-part research project which explores the effects that gambling advertisements have on children, young adults, and vulnerable adults in the UK.

One of the key recommendations from the report was a need for gambling marketing and advertisements to be clearer in their messaging. The report cites that the language in some material is intentionally complicated, using complex terminology alongside eye-catching offers. The report also points to the commonality gambling adverts have of suggesting there is little to no risk attached to betting or claiming that cash-prizes are a certainty. The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) was involved with similar action recently, having pulled a Sky Bet advertisement after it was deemed that the advert suggested that an in-depth knowledge of sports would increase your chances of winning, though the decision was later reversed.

One of the conclusions reached in the report was that gambling companies should be working to ensure that there are “clearer messages on gambling adverts of the risks associated with gambling”, and that gambling risk messages should be more prevalent in marketing material. GambleAware has also advised that the current regulations surrounding gambling advertisements should be revised, with a specific focus on the guidelines surrounding how likely material is to attract an underage audience. Gambling firms recently agreed to review how the tone and content of advertising material is conveyed, following a voluntary 1% levy by some of the UK’s biggest betting companies to raise additional funds for charities combating gambling harm.

Along with the findings on the language of gambling adverts, the report also noted other factors which potentially attract the attention of people under-18. These include jingles, celebrity endorsements, and gambling mascots. The report does make clear that it found no evidence to suggest that companies are purposefully targeting children or young people through their advertising.

However, the report did find that gambling bodies don’t have any specific measures in place to actively prevent minors from seeing the material. In fact, the ASA used monitoring software that found 43 different gambling operators with adverts present on websites aimed at children. The companies that were found to have breached advertising regulations have accepted the ruling from the ASA, though many have said that the blame rests with third-party platforms that host or provide the material.

The amount of money being spent across all areas of gambling marketing is also increasing, according to the report. Conventional advertisement streams like adverts on television and radio are still among the most popular areas of investment, while references to gambling and gambling companies are “prevalent in some sports broadcasts but not all”, the report observes.

Along with the traditional advertising avenues, the report analysed the effect that new digital platforms like Twitter and esports have had in normalising gambling material for underage players. The report could not analyse the full impact of these new advertising streams but does note that there “is clear evidence that children and young people are actively engaged in gambling related material”. A collection of the most popular tweets between March and November in 2018 was cited to show that messages concerning sports betting from bookmakers or betting tips accounts were among the most active tweets, while a giveaway tweet from the Betway esports account recorded over 24,000 retweets.

Marc Etches, GambleAware CEO, has said that the nature of the report means that it is currently “too early to judge the impact of exposure to gambling advertisements and marketing on children,” though followed up by noting “the research does make some important recommendations” surrounding traditional and emerging advertising platforms. And among those advisory comments was the suggestion that “current regulation and guidance are applied to licenced esports operators as the market develops”.

GambleAware and Ipsos MORI have used the finding of this initial report to identify new areas to explore in relation to the impact gambling advertisements have on children alongside further inspection of the current areas being investigated. The second half of the report will be published at the end of the year.