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'Gambling content is now part of many children's lives', says charity

22 April 2024
Child computer online safety gambling ads

UK children are increasingly exposed to gambling advertisements online, leading to concerns about their impact, according to charity GambleAware.

A study, commissioned by GambleAware, involving interviews with young people aged 7 to 25 found that children find it hard to differentiate between actual gambling and games that feature gambling elements.

The study shows that children were flooded with gambling ads and games that mimic gambling with their use of appealing visuals like cartoons – despite existing advertising rules.

The charity, which is funded by donations from gambling firms, is calling for stricter regulations to limit gambling ads seen by young viewers.

Zoë Osmond, chief executive of GambleAware, said: “This research shows that gambling content is now part of many children’s lives.

“This is worrying, as early exposure to gambling can normalise gambling for children at a young age, and lead to problems.

“We need to see more restrictions put on gambling advertising and content to ensure it is not appearing in places where children can see it. Urgent action is needed to protect children.”

The report suggests that gambling-like games, such as those with loot boxes or virtual casinos, might need broader definitions to encompass their betting-like nature.

Nicki Karet, managing director of Sherbert Research, which worked on the study, said: “The grey area between online gambling and gambling-like gaming is confusing, especially for younger children, and blurs the lines between what is and isn’t gambling.

“This grey area is further confusing because gambling advertising, particularly online, often uses visuals and tonal expressions that can be seen to directly target children, such as cartoon graphics, bright colours and sounds.”

These findings come amidst increasing scrutiny from regulators and academics who argue that current advertising guidelines are insufficient and recommend revising them to better cover digital platforms where children are active.

Experts advocate for a collaborative approach to develop new advertising codes and possibly consider a ban on gambling ads if current measures fail to protect young users effectively.

Meanwhile, the Betting and Gaming Council asserts that its members adhere to strict age verification and have implemented new rules to restrict ad visibility to underage users.

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