The recommendations of the ‘Biddable Youth Report’ – published by research firm Demos and the University of Bristol’s Department of Management – include greater use of age-verification tools.
After more than 888,000 betting-related tweets were analysed over a nine-month period in 2018, the researchers found that 45% of those who retweeted or replied to an esports betting tweet were under the age of 16. In the UK, the proportion was 28% – five times the percentage of users who actively engage with posts from “traditional” bookmakers.
The analysis also showed that 74% of esports tweets and 68% of traditional sports tweets appeared to contravene UK advertising regulations “in some way”, including showing people under the age of 25 in adverts.
The report also urged technology companies and advertisers to work together to make embedding terms and conditions in messaging seamless.
Report co-author Agnes Nairn, a professor from the University of Bristol’s Department of Management, said: “Our in-depth analysis of the content of gambling advertising Tweets leads us to believe that children’s esports gambling is currently under the radar in two ways – it’s online where parents won’t see it and it’s using clever content marketing such as amusing GIFS, memes, pictures and funny stories, designed to appeal to and implicitly influence young people.”
Co-author Josh Smith, a senior researcher at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, added: “We found that high volumes of messages are produced to appeal particularly to children, with thousands of children in the UK following and responding to this content. This report also shows that advertising regulations are being regularly flouted by gambling advertisers online.
“We hope this report serves as a call to action – both to technology companies to make it easier for gambling customers to get a clear picture of what they’re getting into, and to regulators who must continue to ensure that these new actors are compliant with regulation.”
GambleAware CEO Marc Etches added: “One in eight 11 to 16-year-olds follow a gambling company on social media.
“This figure, coupled with this new report into esports betting, shows a need for technology companies to strengthen the age verification processes on social media platforms to help protect children and young people from this sort of exposure to gambling content online. It also brings to light the need for clearer and more regular messages about the risks of gambling to be displayed on gambling adverts online.”