GambleAware calls for improved age-screening tools to reduce problem gambling

Research commissioned by industry charity GambleAware has led to a number of recommendations as to how operators can reduce the risk of gambling-related harms.

The programme of research was conducted by two separate consortia, led by Ipsos MORI and the Institute for Social Marketing at the University of Stirling. The research found that ‘regular exposure to gambling promotions can change perceptions and associations of gambling over time for children, young people and vulnerable adults’.

Responding to the research findings, Marc Etches, CEO of GambleAware, commented: “Gambling is an adult activity, but this new research conclusively shows that it has become part of everyday life for children and young people. This constant exposure to it through advertising and marketing, or via close friends and family, has the potential for serious long-term implications for children and young people.

“The exposure to gambling on social media suggests there is a clear need for social media companies to improve age screening tools and for gambling companies to make full use of existing ones, to help protect children from potential harmful exposure to gambling. We must always be mindful that gambling is a public health issue and it can have serious implications for people’s mental health.

“This report is an apt reminder for us to ensure that the next generation is made aware of the risks of gambling as well as the help and support that is available via the National Gambling Treatment Service.”

Prevalence of gambling advertising on social media platforms was reported to have an impact on attitudes towards the acceptability of gambling. The research suggested that this can subsequently impact the likelihood that a child, young person or vulnerable adult will gamble in the future.

The report outlined a number of recommendations: the industry should place a significant focus upon the need for clearer safer gambling messages and campaigns; a requirement to improve education initiatives; a reduction in the appeal of gambling adverts to children and improved use of advertising technology, to minimise the exposure of such content to children, young people and vulnerable adults.

According to the research, if a child or young person has a close friend or carer who gambles, that individual is six times more likely to be a current gambler than those without such a connection.

By using an age classifier on Twitter, researchers also found ‘clear evidence’ of children following and engaging with gambling related accounts. Researchers estimated that 41,000 followers of gambling-related accounts in the UK were under 16. Added to that, 6% of the followers for ‘traditional’ betting accounts are children, which rises to 17% when focusing on esports gambling accounts.

Steve Ginnis, Research Director at Ipsos MORI, concluded: “The research points to the ubiquitous nature of gambling advertising, beyond sports and beyond television; and further demonstrates that the impact of exposure goes beyond traditional selling techniques that elicit an immediate response.

“The evidence captured in this research suggests that there is value in taking further action to reduce exposure and appeal of gambling advertising, which in turn is likely to help mitigate against the plausible risk of gambling-related harms among children, young people and vulnerable adults. Our recommendations are intended to help stimulate collective discussion and action.”

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