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"Sneaky" social media advertising is luring young people into gambling

18 March 2024
Young boy on laptop online gambling

Campaigners have raised concerns over the increasing use of "sneaky" social media advertisements by betting firms.

A report produced by Bristol University highlights a surge in gambling promotions that merge betting company advertisements with cultural references, making them hard to distinguish as advertising, especially by children.

This could potentially lead children to follow these companies on social media, increasing the likelihood of them signing up for gambling services once they reach the legal age.

Dr. Raffaello Rossi, a marketing lecturer at Bristol University and co-author of the report, noted the difficulty all ages, but particularly young people, have in recognising this as advertising.

He says, “It’s a sneaky way to get people engaged and create a positive perception towards gambling.”

Rossi says that social media postings like this are in breach of advertising rules that stipulate that marketing communications “must be obviously identifiable as such”.

Recent findings revealed that major UK betting operators posted over 19,100 times on X within eight months, underlining the ease with which age restrictions on social media can be bypassed.

Further research involving over 650 participants aged 11 to 78 found that young people could only identify 43% of content marketing as advertising, in contrast to 65% of adults.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, vice-chair of the parliamentary group for gambling-related harm, emphasised the importance of addressing the growing trend of content marketing “to ensure children, who spend significant amounts of time online, are being protected.”

In response, a spokesperson for the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) highlighted their commitment to strict advertising guidelines and safer gambling messages.

They confirmed that their members have “introduced new age-gating rules for advertising on social media platforms. BGC members take a zero-tolerance approach to betting by children.”

A spokesperson for the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) said: “We have an overriding commitment to ensure gambling advertising is responsible, and our rules place a particular emphasis on protecting young and vulnerable audiences from potential harm. We won’t hesitate to ban ads that break those rules, particularly when it comes to issues around targeting under-18s.”

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