The recommendations came as part of a policy briefing on young people and gambling marketing, based on two new studies into the topic.
The research – conducted by University of Bristol’s chair of marketing Professor Agnes Nairn and marketing lecturer Dr Raffaello Rossi – took the form of an online survey. It was administered to 210 children aged between 11-17, 222 young people aged 18-24, and 221 adults aged 25-78.
The figures showed that 45.2% of 11-17-year-olds and 72.4% of 18-24-year-olds claimed to see gambling advertising on their social media feed at least once a week. 19 out of every 24 gambling ads were found to be more appealing to children, and esports gambling advertising was significantly more appealing to children and young people than adults.
15 out of 24 ads stirred positive emotions in children and young people compared to 7 out of 24 for adults.
The research recommended that regulators ban all esports gambling advertising as it is “dramatically more appealing to children and young persons than to adults”, suggesting that the majority of esports fans are under 30 and so any advertising would appeal more to children and young people.
In addition to advising that young people should be defined as 16-24 rather than 16-17 in the advertising codes, the research also called on regulators to tighten the rules for content marketing, recommending that ads be clearly labelled as commercial content.
It was also suggested that children and young people be asked directly what parts of gambling advertising appeal to them, and those answers should be used to dictate what should be omitted from gambling ads.
Nairn said: “We know from previous research that children are actively following and engaging with gambling content on social media and regulators are struggling to keep up with this trend. This new research shines a spotlight on two specific types of gambling adverts: content marketing and esports that are strongly and significantly more appealing to children and young people than to older adults.
“Importantly, the current regulations do not address these types of advertising at all. The esports market is forecast to exceed a billion dollars this year. It has an audience of 500 million people, most of them children and young people. The regulations need to be reformed as a matter of urgency.”
Kev Clelland, strategic alliance director at the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM) added: “The findings support the evidence we submitted to the Gambling Act Review where we called for more to be done to minimise the exposure that children have to gambling advertising.
“All gambling advertising should be designed and displayed in a way that is appropriate for adults and avoids marketing techniques that appeal to children. There is opportunity to strengthen advertising protections and both the advertisers and the platforms which host adverts should use technology and data to do more.”