An increasing number of individuals and organizations are fighting back against parties that glorify gambling to young people.
This comes on the back of a recent worrying report from the UK Gambling Commission that details the growing problem of underage gambling in the UK.
Celebrities and sporting teams, in particular, are known to promote gambling companies very often. While their intention may not be to spread these pro-gambling messages to youngsters, this is exactly what is happening. When young people see their heroes or famous people promoting gambling, it normalizes it for them.
The UKGC report
There was a lot of cause for concern following the release of UKGC’s report, Young People and Gambling – 2018, which examines the prevalence of gambling for children aged between 11 and 16 years old.
The report claims that the level of underage gambling is increasing year on year. UKGC believes that about 450,000 schoolchildren are regular weekly gamblers. Furthermore, 55,000 of these young people are problem gamblers, with 70,000 of them being at risk gamblers. This is a fourfold increase on the 2016 figures.
Naturally, this is a worrying trend that needs a solution.
Reasons for the rise
There are likely to be many variables that play into these increasing figures. One, in particular, is currently the subject of hot debate across the UK: the number of sports teams and celebrities promoting gambling or gambling products is at an all-time high.
Young people see these promotions everywhere they look. Social media feeds are full of gambling advertisements from their favorite celebrities and sporting events are dominated by their advertising.
Take a football game, for example: you will often see ads on television for bookmakers, as well as the teams having gambling companies as their shirt sponsors and billboard advertising at the stadiums promoting a similar offering. Sports stadiums are now open to the idea of selling their naming rights to a gambling company.
While gambling companies will say that they are not directly targeting underage people with these forms of advertising, these ads are clearly influencing young people nonetheless.
If you are constantly around these pro-gambling messages, the developing teenage brain will start to believe that gambling is a normal activity. It often does not take long for an underage gambler to fall into a state where gambling is a serious problem in their lives.
Campaigners speak out
The backlash has begun, as more parties speak out about the issue.
Currently, almost 60% of clubs in the Premier League and the Championship have gambling companies as their shirt sponsors.
Luton Town FC, a League Division One team, is refusing £500,000-plus sponsorship deals with gambling companies for its team shirts and stadium. The club does not feel comfortable accepting such sponsorships according to Gary Sweet, the club’s chief executive.
Sweet says: “We don’t want to promote excessive gambling behavior through our support base and our players. I don’t think I’m going to be fired because I’m turning down that kind of income from our board, because together we all think and believe the same things as part of our principles.”
There is some progress on the issue. Gambling operators are looking at how often sports betting ads appear on television, following the public expressing concern on the issue. Luton will only deal with a gambling sponsor if the authorities force them into it.
Some of the celebrities who have recently come in for criticism about their promotion of gambling companies include Newcastle FC legend Alan Shearer and world heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua. Between them, they have millions of followers on social media, with a large proportion being underage.
What needs to change?
There are calls already to reduce the frequency of gambling ads on television. Other countries have enacted these bans during live sports events. This would be a positive first step.
The authorities would then look at new ways gambling companies advertise through social media personalities. This will be difficult to change, but something certainly needs to change before the problem gets worse.