USW research uncovers covert nature of gambling advertising

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Gambling adverts are becoming increasingly hard to spot, says new research from University of South Wales.

The UK has seen a rapid increase in gambling advertising since the Gambling Act 2005 came into force in September 2007, opening the door for TV advertising for sports betting, online casinos and poker. 

Academics from the University’s Addictions Research Group conduct research into gambling related harms. Their new report investigates the online evolution of gambling advertising and the marketing techniques being used by companies to attract more customers.

Jamie-Torrance-PhD.jpg“Gambling adverts are employing the interactive functionality of social media with audiences being encouraged to ‘like’, ‘share’ and ‘engage’ with adverts digitally,” said Jamie Torrance, a doctoral researcher who specialises in gambling-related cognitions and the impacts/effects of gambling advertising. 

“This can make the promotional intent of these adverts harder to spot.”

“Another interesting finding is that the advertising can be covert. Gambling organisations are asking social media influencers to work their products cleverly into their videos without declaring it is a paid promotion. This is especially concerning as children can be influenced.”

Demographic targeting can also make online gambling adverts more attention demanding than conventional advertising such as billboards and print media, and potentially harder to ignore, the report found. 

“Different types of gambling are promoted to specific demographic groups,” Jamie continued. 

“Sports betting, for instance, involves masculinised content that aims to align team loyalty with betting on that team. Adverts positively framed gambling and, in some instances, over-represented riskier bets.”

The research highlights the potentially harmful characteristics of gambling advertising and how adverts have increased in complexity over recent years. 

“Research like this is important because the UK is quite liberal in its stance on gambling advertising. The industry evolves rapidly, especially on social media so research is always catching up.” said Jamie.

“Studies such as this which investigate the specific marketing methods used by the gambling industry are of significant importance in influencing regulatory reform, ethical industry marketing and harm-reduction strategies,” said Jamie.

“They inform the decisions of policymakers and researchers regarding effective harm-reduction strategies and bring us one step closer to more transparent and ethical industry practices.”

This report is the latest in the group’s ongoing research into gambling-related harm. A related study, published in December 2020, investigated the perceptions of young adults towards gambling advertising in the UK.

Contact: [email protected]

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Research Team

  • Jamie Torrance, a doctoral researcher at USW who specialises in discorded gambling, gambling-related cognitions and the impacts/effects of gambling advertising.  

  • Professor Gareth Roderique-Davies and Professor Bev John are HCPC-Registered Health Psychologists and co-leaders of the Addictions Research Group at the University of South Wales. They are invited observers of the Cross-Party Group on Problem Gambling at the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru, sit on the “Beat the Odds” steering group that is run by Cais Ltd and are the Education Leads for the Gambling Research Education and Treatment Network Wales. 

  • Marie O’Hanrahan is a doctoral researcher at USW who specialises in the psychology of substance use, predicting/preventing relapse and harm reduction.

  • Nyle Davies is a doctoral research at USW who specialises in gambling harm screening and the study/production of brief gambling interventions.

  • Dr James Greville conducts research in causal, relational and associative learning, and how these processes are implicated in clinical psychology and mental health.