Since the legalization of sports betting in many states, and the increase of online gambling, there has also been an influx of gambling-related ads in all forms of media. Advertisements not only encourage consumption habits, they also impact the view of what is normal, which is part of what makes gambling ads problematic.
How Gambling Advertisements Work
The goal of gambling ads is to get people to gamble more, or start gambling. There is heavy competition in the gambling industry, and gambling sites need to keep their business afloat just like any other business. Online sportsbooks such as DraftKings, Caesars, and FanDuel are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing in order to get sports betting directly in front of a large audience. Online casinos and sportsbooks make it as easy as possible for people to participate - you can start gambling with the click of a button.
Gambling ads make gambling look glamorous and winning appear achievable. Sports betting ads make the gambler look cool and admired in front of their friends. Lottery advertisements often feature regular people winning millions of dollars to make the consumer believe that that person could just as easily have been them. In fact, the advertising for lotteries is quickly persuading people that gambling is normal and socially acceptable.
Advertising taglines by these companies are created with the intention of getting the viewer hooked on the idea of placing bets. One advertising tagline by DraftKings reads, “There’s room for you in the land of the millionaire,” implying that sports betting can turn you into a millionaire.
Another offers, “Play up to $200 risk-free for your first 24 hours.” This makes it easy for the player to get hooked, and continue to play after they have spent their free credit. The reality is, sportsbooks and bookies make their money off of the gamblers’ losses, which means they don’t make it easy for you to win.
Who is Affected by Gambling Ads?
Vulnerable Adults: The prominence of gambling ads in the media are an issue for many reasons, including the fact that these ads target people who are most vulnerable to gambling ads. For example, people who show interest in gambling-related topics, such as sports, are more likely to be targeted with ads about sports betting.
Studies have also shown that people with gambling problems report more exposure and impact from gambling advertising. Once a player places a bet online, betting companies collect the player’s activity data, and tailor their offers to the specific player.
Children: Although most gambling ads are created with the intention of targeting adults, these ads often end up appealing more to children and teens, especially if the ads are for esports (online gaming). The earlier in life a person starts gambling, the more likely they are to develop a problematic relationship with gambling.
Gambling is so normalized in our society that kids are exposed to it at a very young age, and grow up thinking that gambling is a harmless activity. Researchers at Ipsos Mori and the University of Stirling found that 96% of people aged 11-24 had seen gambling marketing messages in the last month and were more likely to bet as a result. This suggests that, “Regular exposure to gambling promotions can change perceptions and associations of gambling over time and impact the likelihood they will gamble in the future.”
In order to combat the normalization of gambling ads, gambling awareness and education needs to be normalized as well. Children are taught in school about the dangers of consuming drugs and alcohol, but rarely are taught about the risks of gambling.
Recovering Problem Gamblers: Gambling ads are also a trigger for those in recovery from gambling addiction. Seeing the ads displaying an image of gambling being a fun, carefree, social activity can make the recovering gambler question why they gave up gambling in the first place.
New Rules for Gambling Ads in the UK
The UK’s Committee for Advertising Practice has implemented a new rule in regards to gambling advertisements, which will come into effect on October 1st. The new rules state that gambling and lottery ads must not "be likely to be of strong appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.” These rules are created to avoid targeting children with these ads, and focus on targeting adults instead.
The U.K. is also currently undergoing a government review of the Gambling Act 2005, which could result in changes to gambling advertising, such as banning betting company logos on Premier League football jerseys.
Will the removal of gambling ads solve the problem? No, many people will continue to gamble regardless of whether or not they are exposed to ads; however, the removal of gambling ads will help protect those who are vulnerable, including children and those in recovery from gambling addiction.
How to Protect Yourself From Gambling Ads
Although there isn’t much that can be done about advertisements on billboards or TV, there are actions you can take on social media to prevent seeing these types of ads.
- On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you can block gambling company accounts
- Choose “hide” on sponsored posts related to gambling. These apps will take note of your preferences, and will show you less of these types of ads in the future.
- On Twitter, you can de-select interests here that may be associated with gambling - such as sports.
Remember, these apps want to feed you ads that you are interested in. If you make it very clear that you are not interested in these types of ads, they should stop appearing on your feed.
If you feel as though you or a loved one are developing a problematic relationship with gambling, we encourage you to seek out professional help right away, before the problem intensifies. Algamus Gambling Treatment Services has been treating gambling addiction and the related underlying issues for more than 30 years.
Our gambling-specific treatment program guides the gambler to overcoming their addictive behavior, and teaches them how to achieve the life that they want for themselves. If you’d like to learn more, speak to one of our gambling counselors or leave a comment below.