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Celebrity gambling ads could harm young people

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Influencers and gambling ads spruiked to their significant followings are leading to increased acceptance of betting among young people.
Influencers and gambling

A new study has found celebrity and influencer-led ads can boost the appeal of gambling to young people.

It comes after researchers from three Australian universities surveyed a group of 12-17-year-olds about gambling marketing.

The Government-funded study found that young people were more likely to think a betting company was credible if they saw a well-known figure endorsing it. It also found young people felt more encouraged to gamble in the future because of these endorsements.

Researchers asked 64 children about their thoughts on gambling ads. Two-thirds of respondents were male, and most were from areas of high socio-economic advantage.

The study found that the familiarity of influencers with young people meant some were more likely to “actually listen” to what they promote.

For example, one 12-year-old boy said when young people see an influencer endorsing gambling, “They’ll probably go, ‘Well, if my idol, my favourite YouTuber, Instagrammer, TikToker is gambling maybe I should give it a try’.”

Influencers and gambling

Several respondents called out gambling ads with former AFL players and ex-NBA player Shaquille O’Neal (who appears in ads for PointsBet with influencers ‘The Inspired Unemployed’).

Researchers noted that these endorsements increased trust of betting providers, and were “particularly effective” when marketed to young people.

Concerns about the transparency of promotions by influencers were also raised. This included confusion about when a promotion is sponsored or a genuine personal endorsement.

Other respondents said positive commentary from influencers tended to ignore the risks associated with gambling.

“They’re just saying, ‘Oh, I won this much’ and they wouldn’t really say ‘But I almost lost it’,” one 12-year-old girl said.

Some suggested that celebrities could make it more tempting to try gambling.

A 13-year-old girl told researchers that when young people see a YouTube, TikTok or Instagram personality speak positively about gambling, “They think that suddenly it’s cool and…they want to be just like what they’re doing.”

A ban on deals for influencers and gambling

Respondents called on influencers, especially those with young audiences, to reject gambling deals and do more to support anti-gambling campaigns.

A total ban on high-profile endorsements was also suggested, but researchers said this would be hard to enforce.

Researchers said the study “highlights the importance of a comprehensive approach to preventing young people’s exposure to gambling marketing”.

Gambling regulation

In the study, researchers called for stronger gambling regulations to counter the “novel ways” betting providers market to young people.

Recent measures to limit gambling harm include the introduction of a self-exclusion register for problem gamblers, and new messages at the end of gambling ads to discourage betting.

The Federal Government is currently considering a recommendation from a parliamentary committee to implement a phased ban on all forms of gambling ads.

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