Background Gambling advertising often contains a multitude of information about inducements and incentives, in addition to details of the specific gambling product marketed and other promotional features. Research suggests that consumers are more likely to misjudge the likelihood of winning or benefiting as the complexity of the gambling product offered increases. As part of a larger study concerning the impact of COVID-19 on gambling behaviours and marketing, we explored how gambling products and inducements are marketed in the United Kingdom (UK) and how inducements are received, and perceived, by gamblers.
Methods Two data sources are synthesised from the ‘Betting and Gaming COVID-19 Impact Study’. An in-depth content analysis was conducted on a stratified random sample of gambling adverts (n=200) from seven media activities in UK (March-May 2020). Coding captured information about the gamble promoted (e.g. suggested odds and wagers), inducements (e.g. new customer offers, free bets), and how Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) were communicated. In-depth telephone interviews were conducted (July-November 2020) with sports bettors (n=16) and young adults (n=11) in the UK to explore experiences and practices related to gambling. Data were analysed thematically using the framework method.
Results Gambling adverts routinely featured complex information about the gambling products promoted and associated inducements. The design of adverts appeared carefully curated so that promotional and branding aspects had greater prominence than practical information about how inducements operated and eligibility to participate and benefit, if such T&Cs appeared at all. In the interviews, participants perceived gambling advertising to be ubiquitous. While several participants underplayed the influence that gambling advertising and marketing had on their gambling activity, some explicitly said that the content had a negative impact on their gambling, including the adoption of novel and potentially ‘riskier’ gambling behaviours (e.g. online casino games). A few highlighted a lack of transparency in relation to T&Cs underpinning inducements offered by gambling operators, which, in turn, compounded adverse gambling experiences.
Conclusion The way that gambling products and inducements are marketed in the UK is complex and likely to challenge comprehension by consumers. Bettors routinely recall awareness of, and engagement with, a variety of gambling marketing activities, and highlight concerns about the reach and impact that marketing may have, particularly on vulnerable groups such as young people and problem gamblers.
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