The Government is facing fresh calls to restrict betting advertising with new evidence claiming to show that current practices increase the risk of harm to children, young people, and adults who are already vulnerable to gambling-related problems, including debt and crime.
It is claimed that the UK already has some of the strictest rules on betting ads, but with gambling firms estimated to spend more than £22bn on ads each year in the UK, any new restrictions could have huge consequences for the sector.
Researchers from the University of Sheffield and Glasgow have inspected and analysed the relationship between people’s exposure to gambling advertising and their intentions, attitudes and behaviours that may be associated with an increased risk of facing gambling-related harm, such as debt, crime, physical and mental health issues, job losses and relationship problems.
The scientists’ team analysed a total of eight reviews in the field that included data from more than 70 research papers and the use of a range of research methods to investigate the relationship between gambling and advertising.
As a result, they consistently found a causal relationship between customers’ increased gambling activity and intentions to gamble and greater exposure to gambling ads.
According to the research findings, published in the Public Health Journal, there was evidence of a so-called “dose-response effect”, with greater exposure to advertising boosting participation rates, leading to a greater risk of harm.
Furthermore, the research found evidence for the impact on children and young people, and the ones who are already considered at risk from their current gambling activity, with the most vulnerable individuals being more likely to be affected by negative consequences associated with gambling.
Funded by City Hall, London, the research is aimed at providing independent evidence-based information about the health and inequalities impacts that gambling advertising has on British people.
Researchers described gambling-related harm as a significant potential driver of health inequalities and noted that people who are already experiencing social, financial and mental health disadvantages are also exposed to a greater risk of facing gambling-related harm.
Professor of Public Health at the University of Sheffield, Elizabeth Goyder said: “Gambling-related harms represent a significant potential driver of health inequalities, because those already experiencing financial, social and mental health disadvantage are also at increased risk of experiencing gambling-related harm. And those already at risk of harm from their gambling have consistently been shown to be more likely to be prompted to gambling by exposure to advertising.
“The substantial evidence we found in all the recent reviews of evidence in this field supports the use of restriction to reduce exposure to gambling advertising. This is particularly likely to reduce risk of harm to children and young people, and adults who are already vulnerable to gambling-related harms. Such restrictions could reduce not only overall harm but also mitigate the impact of advertising on gambling-related inequalities.”
The Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) introduced new rules for gambling ads in October last year, banning prominent sports people and celebrities as well as individuals like social media influencers, from starring in ads.
CAP insists gambling advertising rules have always placed a particular emphasis on protecting young and vulnerable people and that it would continue to review its rules, policies and guidelines to make sure that they are effective.
At the time, CAP director Shahriar Coupal said: “The days of gambling ads featuring sports stars, video game imagery and other content of strong appeal to under-18s are numbered. By ending these practices, our new rules invite a new era for gambling ads, more particular to the adult audience they can target and more befitting of the age-restricted product they’re promoting.”
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