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Jelena Kabić
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Jelena Kabić
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Jelena Kabic is a sports betting writer that focusses on responsible gambling. A psychologist by vocation, Jelena volunteered in a rehab facility, where she worked with gambling addicts. She now reviews all our content to ensure it discusses betting in a socially responsible way.
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Ana Gomes de Almeida
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Before joining the team three years ago, Ana worked for five years behind the scenes for household brands like Betway and Betsson. She knows the ins and outs of casinos and sports betting sites. Having witnessed both the positive and negative aspects of the industry, she’s eager to share her expertise with fellow bettors.
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How Ads Influence Bettors (And Should They be Limited?)

Cover image for post How Ads Influence Bettors
How Ads Influence Bettors
How Ads Influence Bettors (And Should They be Limited?)

Gambling ads have been a contentious topic for some time now, with concerns about their influence on people of all ages. Based on what you can read lately, those who have never gambled and seasoned bettors alike are all equally prone to turn to excessive gambling as a consequence of betting ads.

But how much of it is true, and what part of it is fear-mongering?

In this article, we’ll explore the impact of gambling ads on different groups of people, explain why not all people will react in the same way, talk about the main cause of the surge of gambling addiction, and suggest ways to mitigate the ads’ potential harm.

How Ads Influence the Young

One of the greatest worries of all of us dedicated to responsible gambling is the effect advertisements may have on the young population, particularly minors. As we’ve already mentioned on our page about gambling in Alberta, those below 24 years of age are especially impressionable as a consequence of their brain not being fully developed yet.

effects of ads on the young

What’s more, research has shown that gambling ads can be particularly dangerous for individuals under the age of 18, but it’s not as black and white as it may sound.

Namely, certain elements of gambling ads may be more appealing to viewers with high cravings for gambling, such as young sports fans who associate their favorite teams with betting companies. (Bestman, Thomas, Randle, & Thomas, 2015).

Now, when we dissect these findings, we see that advertisements are especially dangerous to those who already have a high craving for gambling. These minors likely already have a problem gambler in their family, and whether through genetics or learned behaviour, they are more likely to be pushed over the edge thanks to advertisements.

So while we do need to be especially careful with minors when it comes to gambling ads, research suggests that the biggest issue lies with those already prone to gambling.

Finally, according to an expert in the field, the influence of betting ads on minors seems to lie in their unrealistic depiction of betting.

Quote
Hibai Lopez-Gonzalez
Expert Quote
Hibai Lopez-Gonzalez
Hibai Lopez-Gonzalez
Lecturer on Influence of Advertising
Hibai Lopez-Gonzalez is a lecturer at the Faculty of Information Science and Communication at the University of Barcelona, whose research focuses on the influence of advertising and communication strategies on the development of problem gambling.

In general, gambling ads overestimate the likelihood of winning, and overemphasize the degree of control over the outcome of a gamble that gamblers actually have (e.g., in sports betting, they emphasize the importance of data analytics, knowledge of sport, experience in sport, etc). Young people are more vulnerable to such erroneous representations of the adult world, and might internalize them as realistic multiple representations which are in fact utterly unrealistic.

How Ads Influence Seasoned Bettors

Even seasoned bettors can be influenced by gambling ads, leading them to gamble more often. That said, a similar conclusion can be drawn as before: the advertisement seems to influence only those who already have a gambling issue.

For example, according to Lopez-Gonzalez, H., Estevez, A., & Griffiths, M. D. (2018) many bettors feel that sports betting advertising came too late for them, as they were already experiencing gambling-related problems before the rise of betting advertisements.

This belief is not limited to older bettors, either; even those as young as 19 and 20 years old agree.

So, while betting advertisements do pose an issue for those who are either at a tipping point or already in the throes of addiction, they don’t seem to be as influential on bettors not initially prone to addiction.

It’s unfalsifiable that advertisements can also lead to relapse. For example, some individuals relapse because they set a limit to their self-exclusion and start getting enticing materials again.

Additionally, certain types of ads have been shown to be more problematic than others (Lopez-Gonzalez & Griffiths, 2017).

And we can’t turn a blind eye to some irresponsible advertising practices, either. Recently, a bettor opened up and admitted that a sportsbook didn’t recognize his excessive gambling and, if anything, it helped him continue these practices.

Certain advertisement practices encourage excessive gambling when it should be recognized and addressed instead. These include sending inviting messages after a long period of no gambling or sending them when there’s a negative balance (Hing et al., 2014).

All of the studies we referred to in this article so far have concluded more or less the same thing.

Reverting back to the anecdotal “study” of storks and babies from before: the two things (advertisement and gambling problems, in this case) can be linked without there being causation.

The common denominator here is the pre-existing proneness to gamble irresponsibly. Individuals with no such susceptibility find it a lot easier to “ignore” the ads, at worst, placing a couple more bets than usual.

One proposed solution to this growing issue is to restrict advertisements. Recently, Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario proposed banning celebrities from participating in betting ads.

Meanwhile, in a meta-analysis published in 2020, the Journal of Gambling Studies found two things:

  • ads were only negatively impacting a small group of bettors already prone to excessive gambling
  • while limiting ads showed fewer accounts being opened and fewer bets being placed, the researchers concluded the addictive behaviour might have simply “shifted” to social media.

To test that further, we cross-referenced how tight the limits on betting ads are in different countries vs the percentage of the population with a gambling problem:

CountryBetting Ad Limits% of Gambling Addicts
GermanyGambling ad prohibited on TV, radio, and the internet between 6am and 9pm.2.3
SpainAds limited outside of 1am-5am bracket0.5
France“Untruthful” ads that make it look winning is more likely that it is are banned; no betting athletes in ads4.4 (at risk)
AustraliaNo ads during live broadcast events between 5am-8:30pm1.17
IrelandNo ads on TV, radio, or an on-demand service between 5.30 am and 9.00pm0.23
CanadaNo limits1.6 (at risk)

From the above table, it’s pretty clear that limiting betting ads does a good job of preventing gambling addiction, with the strictest country (Spain) having the fewest gambling addicts and the more lenient France having the highest percentage of at-risk gamblers.

This goes to show that assessing the issue in a balanced manner that limits ads without banning them can be a good thing for the Canadian market as well.

How so?

Addiction is a disease, and once there, it’s there for life. Several studies (Addiction, 2010; Journal of Gambling Studies, 2013; Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 2018) have shown that individuals with a history of gambling addiction often go on to develop anything from excessive social media use to substance abuse.

Limiting gambling advertisements, which is something Canada’s leading politicians are suggesting, may lower gambling addiction numbers.

What is proposed as Bill S-269 could help. Most recently, AGCO forbade athletes as well as entertainers who could be seen as role models to minors from participating in gambling ads.

This is something we fully support, knowing how impressionable young minds are.

Based on the above findings, we are also in favour of not showing these types of ads during certain hours when their exposure to minors may be highest.

Still, as helpful as this is, it isn’t likely to solve the core issue, which is that some people are a lot more prone to developing addictive behaviours than others.

A More Viable Alternative

A more effective solution is to promote responsible gambling practices and tools to bettors. In Canada, sportsbooks and casinos already need to have certain RG/HM policies established, but this is not enough.

A recent study suggests that many bettors aren’t even sure where to find these, and for those that do use them, the effects are unclear as they haven’t been studied enough yet. (Darren R. Christensen et al., 2021)

These policies shouldn’t just exist for the sake of being ticked off — they should be utilized. Whether through mandatory How-To sessions or via regular check-ins with bettors, the answer lies in ensuring we can catch problem behaviour on time and stop it. It doesn’t seem viable that removing ads (which don’t even affect the majority of bettors), while completely neglecting the other side of this issue, would be a good solution.

References

  • Bestman, A., Thomas, S. L., Randle, M., & Thomas, S. D. (2015). Children’s implicit recall of junk food, alcohol and gambling sponsorship in Australian sport. BMC Public Health, 15(1), 1022.
  • Christensen, D. R., Nicoll, F., Williams, R. J., Shaw, C. A., el-Guebaly, N., Hodgins, D. C., McGrath, D. C., Smith, G. J., Belanger, Y. D., & Stevens, R. M. G. (2021). Responsible Gambling in Canada: An Analysis of the RG Check Patron Surveys. Journal of Gambling Studies, 1-19.
  • Hing, N., Vitartas, P., & Lamont, M. (2014). Promotion of sports betting and live odds during televised sport: Influences on gambling participation and problem gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 30(3), 499-508.
  • Lopez-Gonzalez, H., & Griffiths, M. D. (2017). Betting, Forex Trading, and Fantasy Gaming Sponsorships—a Responsible Marketing Inquiry into the ‘Gamblification’ of English Football. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 15(3), 585-595.
  • Lopez-Gonzalez, H., Estevez, A., & Griffiths, M. D. (2018). Marketing and advertising online sports betting: A problem gambling perspective. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 42(3), 256-272.

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