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Deceiving ‘Responsible Gambling’ Campaigns Fuel UK Betting Industry
Gambling advertisements are everywhere – on billboards, on the tube, and on shop windows. But does ‘responsible gambling’ campaigns funded by popular betting agencies such as Sky Betting & Gambling, William Hill, and Pokerstars solve the problem?
11 April, 2023

Disclaimer: the ideas and opinions presented in this article belong solely to the writer

The UK has a gambling problem. According to the Gambling Commission, as of 2022, 44% of the country’s population participated in a gambling activity (in the last four weeks). 44%. Owing to this high prevalence, the UK is considered one of the major gambling jurisdictions worldwide. 

Partly to blame is the fact that gambling awareness has never been higher. Gambling advertisements are everywhere – on billboards, on the tube, and on shop windows. Research shows that individuals under 18 were seen on average 2.2 betting or gambling ads a week. This prevalence has given gambling an aspirational value where it is seen to be part of the status quo. This is very dangerous, especially for the highly susceptible young population. Since September 2020, the advertising standards authority (ASA) has banned any gambling and betting companies from using footballers, sports personalities, actors, or social media stars in their advertisements. A much-needed move in order to limit the perception of gambling as an aspiration amongst teenagers. But is it enough to prevent problem gambling behaviour? 

To limit problem gambling further, The UK Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has introduced ‘responsible gambling’ campaigns. Responsible gambling emphasizes exercising a rational choice based on an individual’s circumstances and knowing when to stop gambling. Previously the BGC introduced a campaign with the slogan ‘when the fun stops, stop.’ But is this campaign meant to do good or just look good?

Shockingly, this campaign along with other ‘responsible gambling’ campaigns is funded by popular betting agencies such as Sky Betting & Gambling, William Hill, Pokerstars and Ladbrokes. These industry-funded gambling campaigns have conflicting interests and it shows. For example, in the fun stops campaign, fun is bolded and made bigger, so it catches the reader’s eye, highlighting the fun aspect of gambling. Furthermore, researchers at Warwick University have found that the campaign has not had any significant effect on gambling behaviour despite claims by the BGC otherwise. Since 2021, BGC has released another ‘Take Time to Think’ campaign which has shown customers pausing mid-play before considering whether to use safer gambling tools. This industry-funded campaign has also been found to show no credible effects on gambling behaviour in an experimental randomised control study with a representative sample.

Campaigns are being continuously churned out even though they are not effective. They seem like nothing but a marketing gimmick. In fact, what these campaigns are doing, in the end, is actually promoting awareness of gambling instead of reducing its prevalence. Consumers should be wary of these adverts and of the concept of ‘responsible gambling’ in general. The concept puts the agency on consumers and takes the blame away from the gambling companies. The only way to prevent a gambling addiction is to avoid it altogether.

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