A team of leading academics from the University of Bristol has joined forces with YGAM to examine how young people emotionally and subconsciously react to social media gambling adverts. They will also evaluate how the charity’s education programmes help young people to build resilience, reducing the risk of children engaging with gambling advertisements.

Since 2014, the gambling sector in the UK has increased its marketing spend by 56% to £1.5billion. Gambling adverts are frequent and highly visible across media platforms including television, radio, social media, print and websites. 

A recent study from the University of Bristol revealed nearly half of children (11-17 years old) in the UK are exposed to gambling advertising on social media weekly and around a quarter encounter it daily. It also found that social media gambling adverts for betting on esports were nearly four times more appealing to children than adults. 

Dr Raffaello Rossi, Professor Agnes Nairn, and Dr Olivia Maynard are now working with the team at the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM), to undertake a ground-breaking project which will support the portfolio of education programmes delivered by the charity. A variety of sophisticated measures (including heart-beat monitoring and sweat sensors) will be used to assess the reactions of 30 children and young persons (11-24) who have been through YGAM’s education programme, and 30 children and young persons who have not. Comparing both groups will indicate the effectiveness of methods used in harm prevention programmes and highlight areas for improvement. 

Academics Dr Olivia Maynard, Dr Raffaello Rossi, and Professor Agnes Nairn

People aged 16-34 now form the largest age group participating in non-lottery gambling activities in Great Britain. Research from the Gambling Commission in 2019 revealed that there are 55,000 young people aged 11-16 years old classified as problem gamblers in the UK.

Dr Raffaello Rossi, who is leading the project, said, “The amount of gambling advertising on social media has exploded, and children are exposed to it regularly. To date, little is known about how gambling adverts affect them subconsciously, and importantly, whether educational programmes, such as those offered by YGAM, can help reduce the likelihood of children getting lured into engaging with gambling ads. Using physiological measures (such as heartbeat and skin monitoring) for the first time we will investigate how children react to gambling ads on a subconscious and emotional level – and how this changes when they take part in YGAM´s education programme.”

Kev Clelland, Director of Programme Engagement at YGAM, said, “This is the first project of its kind, so we’re delighted to be working with the University of Bristol team. The study supports our commitment to ensuring all our programmes are evidence-led and external evaluations are used to further enhance our work. The subject of advertising features heavily in the public and political conversations on gambling and it also forms a key part of our education workshops and our resources. The conclusions of this important piece of work will help to strengthen our approach.”

In addition to supporting the work of YGAM, the academics hope the project will add evidence to the debate on whether gambling advertising is appealing to children. The conclusions will inform policy recommendations in relation to the key regulatory code aimed at preventing children from harm via gambling advertising: CAP Code 16.3.12 “Gambling advertising must not be of particular appeal to children and young persons”.

The project will begin in April 2022.