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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 21.co.uk, 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.
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.
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.