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Study Reveals Failures in Self-Regulation of Gambling Advertising in the UK

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Bristol has highlighted significant issues with the self-regulation of gambling advertising in the UK. The study examined advertising during the opening weekend of the English Premier League season, and the results indicated that self-regulation is "completely failing."

Study Reveals Failures in Self-Regulation of Gambling Advertising in the UK

Between August 11 and 14, the researchers assessed TV, radio, and social media coverage, analyzing 391 content marketing ads from gambling brands. They found that a staggering 92% of these ads breached advertising regulations as they were not clearly identifiable as such. According to the CAP Code, marketing communications "must be obviously identifiable."

The study also identified a total of 10,999 gambling messages across TV, radio, and social media during the four days. Among these, 6,966 gambling messages were recorded during live match broadcasts on Sky Sports and TNT Sports. Furthermore, only 20.6% of these messages included gambling harm reduction messages, and a mere 18.7% featured age warnings.

Dr. Raffaello Rossi, a lecturer in marketing at the University of Bristol Business School and co-lead researcher, emphasized the extent of gambling messages saturating UK media and social media coverage. He stated, "Our study highlights a serious issue with social media gambling marketing – especially content marketing. A staggering 92% of content marketing ads are not clearly identifiable as advertising, breaching key advertising regulations. We urgently need to strengthen those regulations to protect consumers – in particular children, who are especially vulnerable to sneaky advertising."

The study found 1,902 gambling ads on social media during the Premier League weekend, generating 34 million impressions. This highlights the significant influence and effectiveness of social media as a platform for gambling advertising. Match broadcasts accounted for the majority of gambling messaging at 63%, followed by Sky Sports News with 2,014 messages, social media with 1,902 messages, and TalkSport Radio with 117.

The UK gambling trade body, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), criticized the research, arguing that it "fundamentally misunderstands advertising and the way it is regulated, while making statements which are either misleading or incorrect." The BGC noted that 20% of all current TV and radio advertising is safer gambling messaging and stated its commitment to extending this to digital channels.

Despite the criticism, researchers called for comprehensive legislation to regulate gambling messages during sporting events and across various media channels. They believe that measures like the whistle-to-whistle and front-of-shirt sponsorship bans have proven ineffective and that stricter regulation is needed to protect consumers from excessive and potentially harmful gambling advertising.

The University of Bristol's research in this area is part of its Bristol Hub for Gambling Harms Research, which aims to improve understanding of gambling harm as a public health issue.

In conclusion, the study's findings raise concerns about the effectiveness of self-regulation in the UK's gambling advertising industry and highlight the need for more stringent regulations to protect consumers from potentially harmful marketing messages.


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