Two-thirds of adults who have experienced problems with gambling have never spoken to anyone about it, according to UK harm prevention charity GambleAware.
GambleAware released a statement today (21 November) calling for an end to stigma around gambling-related harm in order to encourage those suffering to open up about the issue.
Around 64% of adults experiencing problem gambling have never spoken about it to anyone, GambleAware said, with 39% of those people attributing their silence to a pervasive stigma around gambling harms.
The vast majority (76%) of those who have spoken about it, however, reported feeling better after talking to someone, GambleAware added.
The charity is now launching the next phase of its anti-stigma campaign which first launched in April this year.
The campaign calls for an end to the stigma surrounding problem gambling and encourages those suffering to speak out.
It has been developed in close collaboration with the gambling harms lived experience community, GambleAware said, and is supported by a range of expert and influential voices.
Those include former Love Island contestant Scott Thomas, who previously experienced gambling harms, and football commentator Clive Tyldesley.
“Harmful gambling really can affect anyone and very often those suffering show no outward signs of their issues,” Tyldesley said.
“It’s a silent, invisible problem because too often the gamblers disappear into their own feelings of embarrassment and guilt. Getting them to open up and talk is half the battle to beating the problem, either with people close to them or via the professional support the GambleAware website offers.”
The campaign is also backed by a range of partners including the Ministry of Defence and mental health charity CALM, as well as broadcasters which have donated more than £1m worth of free advertising inventory to GambleAware.
The campaign features “impactful media activity across multiple channels, including specifically targeting communities experiencing a disproportionate burden of gambling harm and stigmatisation, such as people from minority ethnic backgrounds.”
The campaign is informed and backed by multiple individuals with lived experience of gambling harm.
Former Love Island contestant Thomas said: “It’s an incredibly scary thing to first tell someone that you’ve got a gambling problem. Many people assume it’s just because you can’t handle your money, but it needs to be viewed as seriously as any other mental health condition.
“I was terrified when I first opened up about the problems I had been having but, once I did, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I no longer had to hide.”
Elissa Hubbard, who also has lived experience of gambling harm, added: “Every day was full of anxiety – trying to keep my gambling a secret, while finding opportunities to do it more.
“People think you can ‘just stop’, but you can’t… it’s so easy to be dismissed, and I didn’t want anyone to think bad of me. Finding help changed everything. I discovered that by keeping quiet, it helps no one, and when you start to talk about it, people start to understand you.”
An ad posted on Instagram for Rank Group-owned Mecca Bingo must not appear again in current form after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled it breached UK advertising codes.
The advert was originally posted in August 2023 and featured RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star Baga Chipz (pictured).
It featured one image of the drag queen not smiling and wearing plain, dark clothes with no make-up, alongside a second image in which the character held up a champagne glass and bore a happy expression, red sequinned outfit, jewellery and a full face of make-up.
Text above the images said “Before playing Mecca Bingo vs after playing Mecca Bingo,” while a caption on the post stated: “A good game can transform you! Don’t you just love that post-bingo glow.”
Two complainants referred the ad to the ASA, saying that it suggested gambling could enhance a person’s self-image or self-esteem, and therefore breached UK advertising standards for gambling.
The ASA determined that indeed, the juxtaposition of the two photos presented the character as having a higher level of confidence and an enhanced self-image as a result of playing bingo.
Further, the caption’s suggestion that a game of bingo may “transform” players “created an impression that an individual could improve their self-esteem, as well as their self-image, by not just playing bingo related games, but also by winning them.”
The ASA therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible and breached advertising codes.
Mecca Bingo defence
Mecca Bingo Ltd said it believed the ad did not suggest gambling could improve personal quality or enhance a person’s self-image or self-esteem.
It said its goal was to offer customers “an exciting and entertaining experience,” and that the purpose of the ad was therefore to convey that its services were fun and entertaining.
The use of a “before and after” structure, as well as references to a “post bingo glow” and the word “transform”, were used to convey the sense of enjoyment related to bingo rather than to suggest the game could alter a person’s self-image, it said.
It added that Baga Chipz had risen to fame on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, and that such language was regularly used on the programme meaning “viewers of the ad would be aware of that context and therefore would not take any reference to transformation literally.”
Rather, the juxtaposed images of the drag queen would simply reflect “a highly exaggerated portrayal of the emotions a person would have after enjoying the entertaining environment of a Mecca Bingo venue,” it argued.
The operator also said it deliberately omitted any reference to winning at bingo, in order to avoid suggesting that the “feel good” factor of the game could only come from winning.
Mecca Bingo acknowledged, however, that the ad could have been misinterpreted if viewed without understanding of its context.
It added that it would ensure future marketing conveyed its messaging more clearly, and confirmed it had permanently removed the Instagram post.
Three tweets posted by Betfred and featuring boxer Anthony Joshua must not appear again after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) deemed them to be of strong appeal to under-18s.
The tweets were published in March and April 2023, and featured videos of the former heavyweight champion being interviewed on various topics including his diet, how he prepared for fights and his mentality when fighting.
The ASA considered whether the ads were likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s, and concluded that they were due to Joshua’s large social media following, which included a relatively high number of followers under 18 years of age in absolute terms.
Betfred presented several arguments to challenge whether the ads were likely to be of strong appeal to children.
The operator pointed out that Joshua was a former world champion boxer whose activities were almost exclusively limited to boxing and his sporting career.
It also acknowledged that Joshua was “undoubtedly a star in the sport of boxing,” but that he was reaching the end of his career and posed a low risk of appealing to children.
In terms of Joshua’s general profile, Betfred said he had not appeared on any form of reality TV, and that the companies with which he held brand deals such as Under Armour, Beats by Dre and JD Sports, had universal appeal and were well-known brands regardless of his endorsement.
Betfred also provided data showing that under-18s made up less than 1% of those brands’ social media followings.
As for Joshua himself, Betfred acknowledged his extensive social media presence and media profile but said this stemmed almost exclusively from his sporting career, not from any other activities which may be of strong appeal to under-18s.
Social media data showed that 0% of Joshua’s followers on X, Facebook and TikTok were registered as being between 13 and 17.
Elsewhere, however, 5% of the boxer’s Snapchat followers and 6.6% of Instagram followers were registered as being underage.
Overall, Betfred argued that Joshua had 29.3 million followers worldwide, with 1.1 million or 3.85% being under the age of 18.
This, Betfred argued, meant he had an overwhelmingly adult following online.
Further, the operator added that only UK social media data should be considered in this case, and that assuming the 3.85% global rate of under-18s was reflected in the UK, around 280,000 of Joshua’s UK followers were under 18.
Betfred argued that was not a significant number of followers in absolute terms.
In addition, the operator pointed out that boxing is an adult-orientated sport unlikely to be of strong appeal to under-18s.
It said Joshua’s fights were usually shown late at night, mostly on a pay-per-view or subscription basis and were not directly available to anyone under 18.
In response, the ASA accepted much of what Betfred argued, including that boxing is an adult-orientated sport and that the number of children participating in the sport is low.
That reflects a previous ruling made by the Authority, which determined in June that a bet365 ad featuring boxer Chris Eubank Jr. was not likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s.
In this case, however, special consideration was given to Joshua’s large social media following and, in particular, the number of under-18s who follow him.
Based on his extensive media and social media presence, the ASA determined that Joshua was in the “moderate risk” of strong appeal to under-18s category.
While the proportion of his followers aged under-18 was low, his large number of followers in absolute terms still left him with over a million underage followers worldwide, it said.
It added that Betfred’s assessment of the number of followers aged under 18 in the UK was not necessarily accurate (did not necessarily reflect the proportion of followers under 18 worldwide), but that even if it were accurate, the boxer would have at least 280,000 underage followers in the UK.
That, the ASA considered, was a significant number in absolute terms.
“We therefore considered that because he had such large numbers of social media followers who were under 18, Mr Joshua was of inherent strong appeal to under-18s,” the ASA concluded.
Joshua vs. Eubank Jr.
The conclusion has raised eyebrows across the sector, not least for its comparison with the ASA’s previous decision on an ad featuring Chris Eubank Jr.
Speaking to NEXT.io, partner at Northridge Law LLP Melanie Ellis said: “The latest ruling from the ASA does raise questions, as Chris Eubank Jr. and Anthony Joshua are figures who quite likely have a similar overall popularity with under 18s, both being 33-year-old successful professional boxers.
“The distinguishing factor was their total number of social media followers who were aged under 18, which was considered by the ASA to be the relevant figure, rather than the percentage of their total followers who were under 18.
“The ASA is placing a high degree of importance on a sports person’s social media presence as a barometer of their appeal to under 18s, where in reality this figure will primarily reflect the individual’s general level of engagement on social media.
“This approach would make sense if the advert in question appeared on their own social media accounts, but arguably falls down when the advert appears elsewhere,” Ellis concluded.
A promoted tweet for Sky Bet featuring former footballer Gary Neville has been banned by the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for breaking rules on gambling advertising.
The tweet, posted on 9 February, contained an embedded video clip from The Overlap football podcast, a YouTube series sponsored by Sky Bet and produced by Neville.
The video showed Neville discussing which team might win the Premier League this season.
Sky Bet’s logo appeared throughout the video, which ended with text stating: “Brought to you by Sky Bet”.
The ASA ruled Neville was “likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s” and therefore breached the advertising code.
Sky Bet, however, disagreed and said it will be seeking an independent review of the case.
Sky Bet’s arguments
The company said the podcast was “distinctly adult in tone and did not feature any content of a childish nature”.
It also argued that Neville’s professional playing career had ended nearly 12 years ago, in 2011, when today’s 18-year-olds would have been just five or six years old.
Sky Bet added that Neville was now more widely recognisable as a football pundit, political commentator and successful businessman.
The firm also assessed his profile, including his social media profile, before publishing the tweet.
According to Sky Bet, Neville had around 5.5 million Twitter/X followers as of March, of which 1% were aged 13 to 17.
Assuming the 1% were all UK-based, Sky Bet said that equated to just 0.39% of the UK’s total population of under-18s.
He also did not have active public personal accounts on YouTube or Twitch.
Moreover, the company added that Neville was 47 years old at the time the tweet appeared, and that his social media profile was consistent with his mature age.
The ASA acknowledged that Neville was “now more likely to be widely recognised as a TV sports pundit” rather than a football player.
However, it added that the guidelines “classed retired footballers who had moved into punditry as likely to be of ‘moderate risk’ of strong appeal to under-18s”.
The ASA therefore assessed the tweet on the basis of Neville’s social and other media profiles.
The regulator pointed out that although Neville didn’t have active public personal accounts on YouTube, Twitch, or Snapchat, he regularly posted on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter/X.
While specific numbers for under-18 followers on TikTok and Facebook weren’t available, the ASA noted that of Neville’s 1.6 million Instagram followers, 5% were registered as under 18, totalling 80,000 users.
In addition to his 55,000 under-18 followers on Twitter/X, the ASA concluded that he had a minimum of 135,000 social media followers who were under 18 years old.
The ASA further determined that this represented a substantial number in absolute terms, making Neville inherently appealing to the under-18 demographic.
The regulator instructed Sky Bet that the tweet in its present form should not be used again and cautioned Sky Bet against featuring individuals or characters with strong appeal to those under 18 years of age in their future advertising.
A spokesperson for Sky Bet parent company Flutter Entertainment said: “We fundamentally disagree with this decision and the flawed process which led to this outcome – it defies both precedent and common sense.
“The ASA did not receive a single complaint from the public or wider stakeholders about the social media post in question.
“We will be seeking an independent review of this case while we consider other options open to us.”
An Instagram post featuring Manchester United midfielder Mason Mount has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The image was uploaded by freebetsdotcom, a sports betting affiliate brand owned and operated by XLMedia.
Coming of age
The regulator’s CAP code states that no one under the age of 25 should play a significant role in marketing communications for gambling.
Two complainants pointed out the post was in breach of regulations as England midfielder Mount is still only 24, having been born in 1999.
The ASA said it was “irresponsible” to feature someone under 25 in the marketing material.
“Although we acknowledged that freebetsdotcom’s service was not itself gambling, using it would place consumers in a position where they would be interacting with gambling services,” said the ASA in a ruling.
The ASA ruled the ad must not appear again in its current form and referred the matter to the CAP’s compliance team.
Right to reply
XLMedia failed to respond to any of the ASA’s enquiries regarding the prohibited ad.
The regulator said it was “concerned” by the lack of response and “apparent disregard” for the rules.
It reminded the company of its responsibility to respond promptly to regulator questions.
BetVictor, bet365 and Ladbrokes have all fallen foul of ASA guidelines on gambling advertising in 2023 for using footballers and managers in marketing material.
MGM Resorts International and BetMGM are launching a new responsible gambling campaign across nine NFL stadiums in the US.
The campaign will see the casino operator and its online joint venture with Entain promote the GameSense responsible gambling programme at the home stadiums of several major NFL teams including the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos and New York Jets.
MGM said it is therefore among the first US operators to promote responsible gambling through marketing within NFL venues.
The campaign will take place during the upcoming American football season, which is due to begin next week on 8 September.
In addition, MGM Resorts and BetMGM are together committing more than $1m annually to fund a variety of responsible gambling and problem gambling initiatives, including in the areas of research, advocacy, prevention, marketing and organisational support.
The GameSense responsible gambling programme was first developed and licensed to MGM Resorts by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation in 2017.
The programme “focuses on positive, transparent, and proactive conversations with guests and customers about how to gamble responsibly,” MGM said.
GameSense messaging is currently being delivered to guests on TV screens in MGM Resorts hotel rooms across the US, as well as on slot machines on MGM casino floors.
The programme is also integrated into BetMGM’s online platforms and sports betting kiosks.
“This is an extraordinary moment as we work with our team partners to raise awareness about responsible gaming,” said BetMGM chief compliance officer Rhea Loney.
“Throughout the season, GameSense will play a pivotal role in reminding football fans who bet, to do so responsibly.”
Stephen Martino, SVP and chief compliance officer of MGM Resorts, added: “The landscape of the gaming industry has evolved dramatically in recent years with the broad legalisation of online gambling and sports betting.
“Collaboration among operators and stakeholders is essential to ensure that responsible gaming remains a top priority.
“These efforts are vital to giving guests, customers, employees, and companies the tools and information needed for a safe and enjoyable experience.”
American Gaming Association SVP Casey Clarke added: “The AGA is proud to work alongside leaders like MGM Resorts and BetMGM to advance responsible gaming every day.
“Their continued investment to elevate responsibility exemplifies the industry’s commitments and the spirit of Responsible Gaming Education Month.”
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has amended regulation to stop licensed operators from using athletes and celebrities in gambling marketing.
Following two updates to the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming, the use of athletes in iGaming advertising will be prohibited, as will the use of celebrities who are of particular appeal to minors.
The new rules will come into effect from 28 February 2024.
AGCO identified these marketing approaches as having the potential to cause harm to those under legal gaming age in the Canadian province. It has therefore seen fit to reduce that risk.
The AGCO initially held consultations on the issue in April 2023, including contributions from a broad range of stakeholders, including public health organisations and gambling operators.
Following these consultations, the AGCO has determined that prohibiting the use of athletes and restricting celebrity endorsements can help to safeguard children and young people who can be particularly susceptible to such content.
The amended standards will apply to both active and retired athletes in igaming marketing and advertising, except for the exclusive purpose of advocating for responsible gambling.
Outgoing AGCO CEO Tom Mungham said: “Children and youth are heavily influenced by the athletes and celebrities they look up to.
“We’re therefore increasing measures to protect Ontario’s youth by disallowing the use of these influential figures to promote online betting in Ontario,” he added.
Athletes and celebs are also banned from gambling marketing in other regulated markets such as the UK, with material governed by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
Earlier this month, the AGCO unveiled the appointment of Dr Karin Schnarr as its new CEO. The Wilfrid Laurier University professor will take over from 18 September 2023.
Ontario’s regulated online gambling market went live on 4 April 2022.
Betsson Group has introduced a new global marketing concept that focuses on the excitement of betting over the prospect of big wins.
Titled A bet makes the difference, the new commercials represent Betsson’s most ambitious production to date and were primarily developed in-house.
They will initially roll out in more than 10 European and Latin American countries.
The company’s flagship brand Betsson has recently experienced substantial growth, particularly in Latam.
This summer, it became the main sponsor for the revered football club Boca Juniors in Argentina.
Moreover, in Q2 2023, nearly 22% of group revenue originated from Latam.
Betsson Group CEO Jesper Svensson said: “As we expand our presence across various markets, we have established an in-house international creative hub.
“I am really excited to unveil our most ambitious commercial yet, solidifying Betsson as the most exciting brand in the industry,” he added.
A new message
Betsson’s new concept highlights the inherent excitement of betting rather than fixating solely on winnings.
Betsson’s global brand director Kay Höök explained: “While we can’t control the excitement of a match or guarantee wins, we can assure our customers that placing a bet, small or big, will amplify the excitement.
“While many other betting companies focus on big, quick wins, our emphasis lies in cherishing the excitement itself and the heightened entertainment that a bet provides.”
To reinforce this message, the commercials depict how an ordinary and unremarkable match transforms into an extraordinary and exhilarating experience when an individual in the audience places a bet.
Directed by the award-winning Rodrigo Saavedra, the film unfolds in a dramatically charged environment akin to a global lifestyle brand.
Even for casino-related activities, the commercial strives to spotlight the entertainment value of betting, rather than the more conventional emphasis on winning moments.
“Our goal is to enhance the entertainment value and intensify the excitement for our customers,” Höök further elaborated.
“While potential winnings remain a possibility, we don’t want the prospect of winning to define our communication.
“Our message is that when you gamble responsibly, you will enjoy the excitement even if you don’t win,” he concluded.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled two more gambling ads seen on Twitter to be “of strong appeal to children.”
In January and February this year, Entain-owned Ladbrokes published two promoted tweets featuring managers from top-flight football clubs.
One tweet featured two images of Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe, while the other offered odds on the “next manager to leave,” alongside images of David Moyes, Frank Lampard, Brendan Rodgers and Gary O’Neil.
Ladbrokes said the first tweet was intended as editorial content, as it contained no calls to action, promotional offers or links directing customers to its website.
It added that Eddie Howe’s online presence and career record had been considered when making the post, providing links to relevant Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, each of which had fewer than 1,000 followers.
The operator concluded therefore that “because Eddie Howe had a modest online presence and much of his managerial career had been spent outside of the Premier League, it was unlikely that he would appeal strongly to under-18s.”
The second tweet, Ladbrokes acknowledged, was commercial in nature and should not have included imagery of the managers.
The brand has since “taken steps to ensure that content of that nature would be reviewed more thoroughly to ensure future ads would comply with the advertising rules,” it said.
The ASA upheld challenges against Ladbrokes on both counts.
“Managers of Premier League football teams were considered high risk” under UK advertising rules, it said, in terms of how likely they were to appeal to under-18s.
It argued its point due to the popularity of football among young people, given it is “an activity in which a very significant proportion of under-18s participated directly on a frequent basis, and had a general interest in through following professional teams and players across a variety of media.”
The managers featured in Ladbrokes’ ads were, at the time of publication, “all current Premier League managers and would be well known to those who followed football, and in particular fans of the clubs they managed, including children.
“We considered based on those factors, that all five managers were likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s,” the ASA added.
Even considering Eddie Howe’s extremely limited online presence – whereas social media popularity has been cited as a high-risk factor in previous ASA rulings – the assessment could not be overridden, the authority said.
The ruling comes just one week after the ASA banned another Ladbrokes ad, featuring boxer and social media influencer Jake Paul.
Despite boxing being considered an adult-oriented sport, the authority ruled that Paul’s large following among under-18s meant he was “of inherent strong appeal” to children, and should not be used in gambling ads.
In another boxing-related ruling made recently, the ASA dismissed a complaint about a bet365 ad featuring Chris Eubank Jr., who was not considered to be of strong appeal to under-18s.
The ASA also published an additional ruling today (12 July), against online bingo brand Lights Camera Bingo, which is owned and operated by Jumpman Gaming.
On the brand’s website, when customers left to open another tab in their browser, a message saying “Hey! Come Back!” appeared in the open tab, in the place of the website’s name and logo.
Lights Camera Bingo said “the intention and only purpose behind the message was to alert a customer that the website had not been closed.”
The ASA ruled, however, that the wording of the message could encourage harmful gambling behaviour or exploit the susceptibilities of vulnerable people.
“We considered that such messaging, in the context of an ad for an online bingo service, could have the effect of encouraging some people to continue gambling when they would otherwise have stopped,” the authority said.
The primary lobby group for the UK gambling industry has been accused of making inaccurate statements about the regulation of the £10bn-a-year sector the day before its boss appears before a parliamentary committee.
Michael Dugher, the chief executive of the Betting & Gaming Council (BGC), will be questioned by MPs on the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport on Tuesday as part of a review of government proposals to improve gambling regulation.
On Monday afternoon, the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Foster wrote to committee members to raise concerns about the BGC’s reliability.
In the letter shared with the Guardian, Foster referred to a BGC press release about a report it had commissioned that pointed to a spike in the use of illegal betting sites between November and December 2022 during the World Cup in Qatar.
What was said in the press release
In the press release, the lobby group said the report showed that punters could be driven into the arms of illegitimate gambling operators if government regulation of the sector went too far.
However, the full report, written by the gambling analysis firm Yield Sec, was never published.
A copy obtained by the Guardian showed the report described the overall penetration of the parallel market as “low,” despite the rise and that it accounted for as little as 1% of overall UK gambling spend.
After the press release was issued in January, Dugher said the report showed the government should beware of imposing “blanket intrusive affordability checks,” referring to proposed mandatory tests to check gamblers can cope with their losses.
The report did not mention affordability checks as a cause of parallel market gambling. Most respondents to a survey commissioned by the Racing Post said people would turn to illicit sites if affordability checks were introduced.
Foster told MPs on the committee he did not think the BGC had been “fully accurate” in its representation of the report or the scale of the parallel market.
He said: “The solution to addressing the black market is to introduce proper enforcement to disrupt the operations of these sites […] rather than abandoning much needed additional regulation of the gambling industry.”
Foster also raised concerns about “other instances when the BGC has not been entirely accurate” about its position on regulations.
In December 2022, Dugher tweeted that the lobby group had “fully and publicly supported” a ban on gambling with credit cards.
Contradiction with the gambling commission paper published
The Gambling Commission paper published in 2020 said “none” of the online gambling companies had supported such a measure during the consultation stage.
The BGC has also repeatedly said a voluntary industry ban on advertising during sports shown on television and TV reduced the volume of gambling adverts seen by children by 97%.
The figure was in fact 70%.
The higher number referred only to the limited period covered by the voluntary ban and only to television, caveats the BGC failed to make clear on several occasions.
In April this year, after the government said it was considering a mandatory levy on gambling firms to fund addiction research, education and treatment, the BGC said its members would “welcome” such a move.
However, Dugher had written in May 2022 it would be a “big step backwards” for tackling gambling-related harm.
In a statement, the BGC said it had “introduced scores of new safer betting and gaming measures, including ensuring our members devote 20% of all TV and radio advertising to safer gambling messaging – backed by our groundbreaking Take Time to Think campaign.
“The Yield Sec study was commissioned to analyse the scale of the growing, unsafe, unregulated gambling black market online, and its findings were accurately reported.
“The importance of fact-based and transparent discussions around iGaming regulation cannot be overstated”, said a spokesperson of BritishGambler, an affiliate iGaming website writing about top legal gambling sites in the United Kingdom and added: “As a key representative, the BGC carries a responsibility to provide clear, accurate, and truthful communications regarding their positions and activities within the sector.
“At the same time, it’s crucial that measures aimed at combating problem gambling are carefully considered and designed before implementation.
“This will ensure that casual bettors are not unduly inconvenienced while still addressing the core issue of problem gambling,” the spokesperson added.