Gambling Companies


Almost everyone says gambling advertising is a problem. People do not like the amount of advertising and how it makes gambling seem like a harmless everyday activity. They have given examples of where advertising led them to gamble in ways that harmed them.

They said if people want to gamble, they can go and find it and there is no need to have it relentlessly promoted to everyone. In general, companies advertise to get people to buy more of what they are selling. But it should be different for gambling. Gambling is a harmful and addictive product, so they thought gambling companies should not be allowed to constantly persuade people to gamble.

Making gambling seem harmless and everyday

People are surrounded by advertising encouraging them to gamble and which makes them feel like gambling is just part of life. People said gambling advertising is now everywhere. It is in sports, daytime and prime time television and radio, online and on social media, on the high street, in mail through the letter box, and more. People also said the way gambling is shown in advertising leads them to think that gambling is harmless fun and an easy way to get money.

You look at technology now with the different types of phones. Even now with me with hiding and I block things on my phone, adverts will still come up, whether you’re on Facebook, whether you are on Google, it doesn’t matter, they’re out there… But the advertising industry needs taken in hand really because it’s just in everyone’s face. You can go to adverts whilst watching Darts on TV, and you can see four different betting shops or betting companies coming up in your face within a two-minute cycle. I’ve never liked adverts, but I detest them even more now.

There is literally just a saturation of gambling advertising. It’s so normal. You know, my team are sponsored by FUN88, and so I go up to St James’ Park and it’s just on there, their tops and all over the football ground. You know, there’s probably 10,000 kids in that stadium who see this and just see it as normal, so I think that’s got to stop.

Oh, that’s ITV. If you think about advertising has probably gone like that, hasn’t it? With people being able to afford advertising, one of the only people that can afford advertising is gambling companies. When you look at ITV, I’ve got a real bugbear with them at the moment, but all the programmes that are sponsored, like Loose Women is sponsored by a specific game. I just find that really strange. Then there was a lot with Ant & Dec with some of their programmes. Emmerdale is Postcode Lottery, Ant & Dec was sponsored by the National Lottery. I just find that really strange. When I questioned Postcode Lottery of why are you sponsoring a family show? They’ve got corporate responses for everything. I’ve challenged National Lottery on training their staff in retail because I used to support somebody who would just go in and buy packets and packets of scratch cards, and they have a corporate response for everything. I have asked them, “Do you have anybody with lived experience on your boards?” because they should have really. It’s just interesting, isn’t it? It’s they’re everywhere, all of the radio shows and all of the little competitions you can do with Andy Peters on what is it? With Tully and things– you can tell I don’t watch a lot of telly, but it’s just ingrained in that consciousness of just going, “This is completely normal.” And it isn’t? It’s built on hope, isn’t it? “Oh, I could win this. Oh, I could do that.”


People are critical of football and broadcasters for taking gambling sponsorship. Several people compare gambling advertising to tobacco, saying in the future we would look back and be shocked that the gambling advertising we have now had been allowed.

I have to go back to the tobacco industry. Yeah, it took a while, but does it bother anybody now? Nobody. But it’s just like, well, you know, it’s there, you know, it’s out there. But we don’t need to have it thrown down our throats. We don’t need to be exploited. Children don’t need to be exploited. They don’t need to see that it’s a norm, you know, to have gambling adverts. You know, mum playing bingo in the middle of the afternoon, especially at a time when they know the kids are home from school.

I feel with gambling but that’s not yet. I honestly think that in 10, 15, 20 years’ time, we will look back on all these advertisements, the saturation of advertisement that is on there now and every other advert, every other programme is sponsored by, you know, gambling operators, and so on and so forth. I think that we will look back in 10, 20 years’ time. The same way that we now look back on the Marlboro man with his tobacco advertising and go, “Wow, can you believe that we did that?” I think that’s what we’ll do. But we’re a long way off the that at the moment with the gambling side of things. So, yeah, there’s no two ways about the power of advertising. If it wasn’t as powerful, they wouldn’t spend the millions and billions of pounds that they do on advertising. They just wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t worthwhile. It clearly does something.


People can not understand why there are no warnings for the public about gambling, and how it is addictive and harmful. Instead gambling companies give the message gambling should be easy for you to to manage through self-control, when this is not the case. People also can not understand why information about recognising when you have a problem, and how to get help, is largely invisible. 

When I do the Gamblers Anonymous meeting, so I just raised the voice, “so why we’re here? We need to go outside”. Like when I in the video, if you watch anything, so that advertisement is coming for Ladbrokes, for Paddy Power. So why not come in the GamCare ad, why not come in the GA ad or the National Gambling Clinic. Why it’s not coming? So yes, we are doing good. If I notice earlier than my loss, it’ll be less. When I lost £5000 pounds, I can easily cover. When it’s £50000 this more and more for me, more burden for me. Yeah, if I go from 5 and 10000 loss, then it’s fine. That’s within my means. So we need to go forward.


In fact, when were the times I stopped gambling? The times when I stopped gambling was if I ran out of money or I had run out of time. When I mean run out of time, I mean, like, I’m three hours late getting home from work kind of run out of time. It was never oh look at that, I’ve placed that bet, and I won that bet and now I’m going to go home. Or I’ve placed that bet and I’ve lost that bet. Now I’m going to go home. It didn’t matter if I won or lost, I couldn’t stop. So, to know that you’re somebody who is consumed like that and thinking about twenty-four hours a day, you don’t understand why. I couldn’t understand why that was the case when the world and you know, I’m watching the telly and it’s like people are out having fun according to adverts. You know, the mates are walking down the road talking about putting these bets on together. So why am I sitting in this isolated state feeling horrendous and deserving to feel like this? It doesn’t make any sense to me. So, yeah, I just felt like there wasn’t other people like me because the world wasn’t showing it. So that made it incredibly difficult to talk to anyone about it. And it was only in 2015 when I first went to the problem gambling clinic that I suppose my dad then started to realize that there was more to it than kind of me messing up regularly.


People also worry about the influence of advertising on other people, especially young people and children. They do not want them to go through the harm they have experienced. They worry about the longer-term consequences of gambling being made to seem normal for younger generations.

They need to cut [adverts] down big time because there’s just too many of them, and some of them are during day as well now. Young people that are coming home from school seeing it in the afternoon. It’s not right. It’s just not right that because they’re easily influenced children, aren’t they? They’re very impressionable, and if they see that and think, “Oh, I’ll just download that app and do it.”… When I were growing up at school, there was drug abuse, alcohol abuse, but there was nothing about gambling, never.

Sophisticated ways of getting different groups to gamble

People point out that gambling companies have sophisticated marketing strategies to target different groups and new groups of people. This includes the development of different products and how they are promoted. People also suggest these marketing strategies have really worked.

It was easier to start online because actually I was told to start online by the advertising, really. And then it was easier to do because I could feel my own way through it, and there was no pressure going into a bookmakers. It would feel like there’s more pressure because you’re not really taught how to fill in betting slips and stuff, you know, and you hear people talking about lucky-15, like what are they talking about?

Betting is more focused on men. Advertising shows betting as if it is essential to being a sports fan and being part of a group of mates. It shows betting as if it is based mostly on skill rather than being unpredicatable, and where men can compete and show how good they are. Young men describe how gambling on football on smart phones has become an important part of what their group of friends talk about and do together.

At that point, I’d signed up and was starting gambling. I think that first win heightened an acknowledgment of what I’ve done and what I was getting into. Subsequently, the years that followed, we would be gambling quite often. I suppose bouncing off each other, we all gambled in the van we was working in. There was six of us, and we all had smartphones. We all knew each other to a certain extent, and we would all gamble, even being on the same website, the same gambling site. You we all had our own accounts, but would joke about, “What bet have you got on? What bet have you got on?” and seeing who would win. When we were not working, that’s what we were doing as a recreational thing to get by during our break times and our dinner times at work. That’s how it really started really with me. It just all came to a head when I just found I couldn’t stop.


I felt like because I loved football and I knew about football, it kind of gave me this edge where I felt like I could do the research into it and then pick a more informed bet… I think things only really changed after university. So around kind of 2005, 2006, when you had the likes of BetFair came along and gambling on your mobile phone became a thing. And I really got into BetFair in the sense that it was, you weren’t just, you weren’t just betting you could trade. So you could place a bet, but then if the bet was going your way, you could, you could then trade out of that position and lock in a profit and those sort of things. And I quite liked that angle of it. It felt like I wasn’t gambling, I was trading.

Women are targeted through daytime TV and radio, mostly with bingo and slots. Advertising appeals to women by linking gambling to community and friendship. Or something women can do as a treat just for themselves, at home, on the quiet, and fitting in around other demands. They said gambling seemed like a friend that was there for them when no one else was.

If you get up in the morning and its particular times of the day, there’s gambling adverts on for a particular things or Gala Bingo. Or again, going back to ITV, Gala sponsors, what they call “The Chase” and things like that, but it’s just all this normalisation. Loose Women, that’s an example, but it’s sponsored by a gambling company. They’re seeing that. Every time the adverts come on, it’s the beginning and end of a segment and it’s everywhere. Facebook is all over it. I’ve spoken to quite a few women that have got hooked into these raffles on Facebook.

Nobody goes into it going, “Today I’ll be a gambler.” It’s all very innocent. I have had conversations with women that have been encouraged to gamble by friends because they’d be good at something and or because they’re upset about something and there’s that social aspect of it, very innocent conversations that have absolutely turned their lives upside down and sometimes in a very short period of time as well, where it’s been lifechanging and not really in a positive way.

I said to my counsellor the other day, gambling, the only way I can describe it is your best friend who turns out to be an asshole who stabbed you in the back. The only way I can describe it, is your best friend while they’re there and takes your mind off everything else and then you look back and go, no, wasn’t my friend at all, it was horrible.

Obviously, say with Virgin, I think it was just the layout and I actually found the sort of moving around the site was so different to what I’ve been used to being on, I just didn’t like it. So that was it. And I only tried it a while to see if I could win any of my money back, I suppose. See if it was any nicer to me. I don’t know with Jackpot Joy. Double Bubble was the game. I was just completely hooked, and I think, you almost get into your head that you’ve got a system, although you can’t get much of a system with slots. But what I did get into my head was that if I played at a particular time of day, I’d have a better win result. So, either four o’clock in the morning or between half two and three in the afternoon. Clare: Ah ok And I realized that the half two to three in the afternoon was the school run. For women, it was a time that they would hone – the site was particularly set up to give good results. You know, lots of wins because of the time of day. And I convinced myself it was because it was a school run time. So, it’s either early morning or mid-afternoon. I think I just got used to it. It was comfortable. Everything I, this is part of me, bit of a perfectionist, very loyal. And if you spoke to my counsellor, she would probably tell you as well, I am loyal to the tee. So, it was loyalty. They, you know, they were being nice to me, and they were giving me things and sending me presents and, you know, vouchers for theatre and goodness knows what else. I was loyal.


People mention many clever marketing tactics used by gambling companies. For example, giving people a card, like a debit card, that they could use to spend winnings in stores, so it felt like they were earning money.

I think it was with Bet365, you can apply for like a– it’s not a bank card. It’s just like a debit card. They send you this card and with all your winnings, you can put it this card and just buy goods with it, so you buying stuff with bet winnings. Bet365, they are the poison of the gambling world, they really are. They’ve obviously worked it out. I would always try to– I couldn’t settle for like £200, £300. I would feel settled at 500 and then I would put like £400 or £300 away and play with £200. I used to put that onto my Bet365 bank card, whatever it was, but I’d always end up losing my winnings and then taking it back off my bank card and putting it back in my account.

Another thing that I remember, people feeding back to me about companies doing a refer a friend, so gambling companies encouraging, well, maybe men as well, but I was hearing it from women, of women going, “I’m so sick of my friend telling me to join this, because if she put ten quid in, a friend, would get ten quid.” It sounds like little bits of money, but it’s all incentives, isn’t it?

It was just luck, but I used to really look into so many different football statistics. I looked into all sorts of stuff, and I ended up being in a betting group on Facebook, like a private group. There was like a tipster in there and put tips, really got into it.

So on Twitch, and then a lot of people on YouTube have gambling channels. And what they do is they will sit there and stream their gambling for five, six, seven hours and people sit and watch these people gambling, which is, I guess, its them making their money and that’s what they want to do, looking at from their perspective. But what they also will do is they will do a collaboration video, and narrow it down to just their big wins. So if you go through their videos they will stream the whole thing. But people don’t want to see that, when you’re logging on, you’re thinking big win, big win, how can I see this. So I did, I sat up, used to be every single night. If I couldn’t gamble because I had no money and no way of getting any money, I would get my fix from watching someone else get a big win. Again, that was increasing me wanting to go and gamble, which probably would lead to me criminal activity and things to getting money. And it gave me the same buzz. Like I used to sit there sweating, thinking, “Wow, this is going to happen to me”. Is it really trying to encourage me on. I don’t know – I’m not sure there’s an age restriction on them. I’m not sure if you can access those if you’re not signed in to say like a YouTube account and children can access them. I don’t think it’s very practical, again, places like YouTube, should have guidelines around them, what really can be shown. Clare: Yeah. Because are they associated with gambling companies, are they just streaming off their own? From what I can work out, when I used to watch them, I think the gambling companies do work in partnership with the streamers and all the providers. So the digital ones, and that’s the ones they will use on their YouTube channels. Oh, we’ve got a new partnership with X, Y and Z, so we’re going to use their site today and they must obviously get some monetary value in terms of the money to spend on the site. I’m not sure the logistics of how it works, but yeah, that is sort of a promotion partnership was going on, I do believe.


Advertising causes harmful gambling

People gave examples of where the marketing strategies used by gambling companies have directly influenced them to gamble in a way that caused them harm.

Remembering an advertisement that appealed to them or where a celebrity endorsed gambling can result in people gambling more or trying a new kind of gambling – which leads to addiction and harm.


But I just remember one day I was up and there was a match on the telly, which I was sitting watching with my mates. And there was one team way on top and one of the lads said they’re going to score. And I just thought, well, I remember Ray Winston in the Bet365 ads, so I thought, let’s have a look at the price for the goal. And I decided to put my first ever in-play bet on and literally I hit the submit and put the bet on. The tick came on the account, and I looked at the telly and they scored. And then there was that immediate ‘bet successful’ and it was only £80 or something that I’d won, but it was a weird feeling, something that I hadn’t felt before with gambling. So, I would say that’s probably ten years ago when that’s happened, and I would say it probably took me six months to get hooked on in-play betting. And then I spent the next six, seven years just progressively getting worse with my gambling.


Free bets and time-limited offers induce people to gamble and continue gambling. Because there are so many different gambling companies, all giving offers, people sign up for lots of different accounts. This means they end up being inundated with promotions from many companies, and gamble more across many accounts. 

These progressive jackpots aren’t very good that have got to be won by midnight every night because if they haven’t been won by 10 o’clock in the night, people are piling the money in late. They’re a really bad one they are. Paddy Power do them quite a lot. Oh, this jackpot must be won tonight, and they come on at half past 10; it still hasn’t been won, guys. So, people are thinking well, I think I’ll have a tenner on that. And then Channel 5 have the roulette on late at night on the television. I don’t know whether you’ve seen that at all. Half past 12,, three hours of roulette live on television

They’re not helpful. Say for instance, 30 free spins if you sign up. Brilliant, I’ll sign up, but I won’t deposit. You know you’re going to. Then you’ve got another five accounts before you know it. Even if you put a £20 limit a week on each of them, you can still spend £200 a week and each person only thinks you’re spending 20 quid, but you’ve got so many different accounts you’re not. That makes it a lot harder because I know a lot of them are linked now. They link the deposit limits, but you can still get around it and just spend what you like.

These websites, they’re all very flashing lights, a lot of deals, a lot of appeals, free bets… I remember at the time in the early days, a certain specific website would actually give out free bets if you spent a certain amount of money. Before I was really chasing losses, to a certain extent, I was using money, and if I did run out, I would end up with a free bet anyway. The gambling company was able to keep me gambling perhaps till I next got paid and then I was able to carry on gambling again. There was, again, the flashing lights, the fact that they could draw me in, the way it was all labelled, and the upcoming events.

But I think the biggest thing that needs looking at is the amount of accounts you can actually hold. I don’t think a person should be allowed to have more than two betting accounts. The only reason why, in my opinion, they have multiple accounts is to get the opening offers, you know. All these companies, when you join, they offer you amazing deals, you know, deposit 10 and we’ll give you 50, for example. And those kind of opening offers means that people just have six, 10, 12 accounts. Then they’re bombarded with spam and emails and free bets and offers. So, by definition, they’re getting a lot of contact from operators individually for their business. And I just think that creates a lot of pressure and a lot of unwanted pressure for the gambler who might just want £5 on Red Rum in the three o’clock at New Market. They’re bombarded with poker and bingo, and they don’t know what to do, but they feel because of FOMO, you know this fear of missing out, “Oh, I must deposit another £10 today to get my free bingo ticket”. And then they go hang on, I don’t play bingo- ah but it’s free, so I’ll have a go. And it’s all these kinds of very clever manipulative enticements that all the operators offer. So, I would want somebody to have no more than two accounts.


People are especially critical of the way gambling companies push them towards playing faster, more continuous products, where it is easier to lose lots of money fast. These products are more profitable for gambling companies, but more addictive and harmful for consumers. For example, when people play bingo, they are pushed to slots on websites or with free offers. Sports bettors are pushed to in-play betting, or casinos and slots. 

I was constantly getting special offers and popups and emails and offers because of the sport book betting that I was doing. I had a number of accounts now. Every one of them, from every operator, would be saying, “Do you not want to try and come play our roulette? This looks like it’s something that you would enjoy.”

The cross-selling of products is unreal. You can’t just go on a site and have a bet on the football. You go on there and it’s in your face, roulette, slot machines, casino. And yeah, like I say, even if you win, like I used to do quite well on the football and yeah, even if I’d win a couple hundred quid, you just go straight to the casino, and it would all be gone.

I think the first thing we have to do, we have to separate sports betting and casino games betting… So, if you open up a William Hill account now, you open it up and you may intend to only bet on horse racing or sport, but you will be offered bingo coupons, poker coupons, slot tournaments, all the rest of it, which is fine. But that kind of cross-selling to me, it lures people in too early. If I want to gamble on a casino I know where to go. If I want to gamble on sports betting, I’d have to go to a bookmaker, although I could use the exchanges.

Making it hard to stop

People say advertising is a problem when they are trying to stop gambling. It is all around them and pursues them on social media, email, text messages and phone calls. This could be a trigger to gambling. It also makes people feel anxiety or panic as it reminds them of the addiction they experienced. Some people have ended up avoiding social or leisure activities they had enjoyed, like football or TV programmes, to avoid this advertising. Some people had to change phone numbers and email addresses to get away from the gambling companies.

Then when you layer in the affiliates and things like that, and there’s just so many layers of it that can work in their favour, and against you or in your favour. There’s just so many and the adverts are so many and that’s really hard in recovery as well. I went into recovery with exposure to a TV because I hadn’t had a TV all the way through and just shrinking down every time an advert came on or having to zone out so that I didn’t engage with the advert. That is something that I had to do for years where it was just like it’s not there. Now I just get really irritated by it but realise how many there are. I listen to a Greek radio station with no adverts on it. The music is fantastic and that’s what I have to do. When I see adverts at 8:30 in the morning and I think school run time, I’m just going, “Why would you put that up on at that time?” For me, it’s not right. I just think there’s not enough regulation for them. They’re pushing their luck as far as they can do it. I think they are the ones that need to be responsible companies rather than putting it on the people and then saying it’s your fault. They will say gamble responsibly and in the background, they’re inundating you with adverts and incentives and then they say, “You can click that button.”

I’ve got as many blocks in place as I physically can have in place. I’ve got bank blocks and email blocks and all sorts, but I still I still get adverts. I get the postcode lottery coming through my door, being forced in my face. I’ve got no choice of that coming through my door. That doesn’t fall under the remit of the gambling blocks that you can put in place. You have to contact them separately to say don’t send me these because I’m a compulsive gambler, which is what I’ve had to do. Which it shouldn’t have to be like that. You wouldn’t get a sample of vodka put through your door. You wouldn’t get a bag of heroin put through your door.

I used to get literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of emails, text messages, calls. Literally every day as well. This went on for two years with offers in all sorts of gambling sites, details and offers for me to use. It was the worst thing for me because I couldn’t get away from it. It was just constant text messages, emails, calls, even phone calls, were ringing me constantly, automated messages saying, “Join up,” and welcome offers and stuff like this. I had to actually change my actual phone number and everything. I think at the time must have had over 9,000 in my inbox. That’s just gambling companies promoting offers and all sorts.

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