Gambling Ads On Social Media Lure Children Powerfully

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Children and young people are vulnerable to the growing popularity of gambling adverts on social media, a new study has shown.

It says that gambling advertising is vastly more appealing to children than adults. Most notably, disguised gambling marketing and ads for betting on esports– professional online competing in computer games–were nearly four times more appealing to children than adults. Nearly half of children are exposed to such advertising weekly and around a quarter encounter it daily, it also revealed.

Whereas results showed that the vast majority of adults were wary or annoyed when faced with gambling ads, children mainly reacted positively. The research has been published as part of a policy briefing led by the University of Bristol, the UK.

“The overwhelming strong appeal of gambling advertising on social media to children is of huge concern, as it is known the earlier people start gambling the more likely it will become habitual and problematic,” Co-lead investigator Dr Raffaello Rossi, who is conducting the first-of-its-kind research into the use and impact of gambling advertising on social media, said.

This study surveyed online 210 children aged 11 to 17 years, 222 young people aged 18 to 24, and 221 adults aged 25 to 78 years in the UK from May to July last year.

It depicted nearly half (45.2 per cent) of children and almost three-quarters of young people (72.4 per cent) saw gambling advertising on Twitter at least once a week. A quarter of children (25.2 per cent) and more than a third (37.3 per cent) of young people reported seeing it daily.

Findings also revealed the vast majority of gambling ads on Twitter (19 out of 24) were twice as likely to appeal to children and young people than older adults, with young people reacting most favourably.

Nearly two-thirds (15 out of 24) gambling adverts prompted positive emotions for young people, such as excited, happy, or delighted, while less than a third (seven out of 24) resulted in a positive emotional response among adults. By contrast, adults were found to be four-times more likely to react negatively, feeling distress, anger, or tension when exposed to gambling ads.

Rossi said many of the adverts may look entirely innocent and harmless, “but they in fact pose a serious risk of getting a whole new generation of gamblers hooked on a serious addiction which has devastating consequences.”

This new research shines a spotlight on two specific types of gambling ads–content marketing and esports that are strongly and significantly more appealing to children and young people than to older adults.

In India, most consumers (75%) are of the view that children are being misled in many ads for apps, gaming and other online services, a survey by Local Circles, a social community platform had shown.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs had issued draft guidelines in August 2020 for misleading advertisements. These were aimed at preventing unfair trade practices and protecting consumers’ interest.

Local Circles had released, in August last year, a consumer survey conducted on these guidelines. The combined survey on advertising code received over 115,000 responses from consumers spread across 320+ districts of the country.

The findings revealed that 87% consumers had difficulty in reading, viewing and hearing disclaimers. At least 86% came across child inappropriate ads in 2019-20. Of them, 19% indicated television, 4% specified general video sites like YouTube, while 27% pointed to both TV and YouTube. Whereas, 2% mentioned newspapers. The rest 34% identified all the three media–television, general video sites and newspapers.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) brings cheer not just to cricket fans but also to fantasy sports apps, which dole out new offers and have bumped up their marketing spends to woo users. However, such advertising and marketing campaigns may not be going down well with people, indicated the survey by Local Circles.

Many parents objected to as to how heavy advertising by fantasy gaming platforms during the IPL has led to children becoming curious and joining such platforms: Around 77% of the survey respondents wanted a ban on advertising for fantasy gaming platforms. Some demanded that they be put in the same category as sin products and be permitted surrogate advertising.

(K V Venkatasubramanian is an independent science journalist, writer and author)

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