A postgraduate study investigating tweets by gambling operators revealed they only promote safe gambling messages, on average, just over once every 100 tweets (1.6%).
Postgraduate researcher Scott Houghton and colleagues from Northumbria University will present their findings as a poster today, Thursday 2nd May, at the British Psychological Society annual conference in Harrogate.
Scott said: ‘The online gambling industry in the UK is now the largest gambling sector in the country. One possible explanation is the combination of the mobile nature of online gambling and the sheer scale of marketing by gambling companies. In this study, we assessed the type and frequency of content posted via Twitter from gambling operators and their affiliates.’
Twitter was chosen as it was the only social media platform used across all operators. Researchers checked the Twitter accounts of the 40 highest-grossing British gambling operators and selected five with the highest number of followers (Paddy Power, Bet365, SkyBet, Coral and William Hill).
A similar method was followed with gambling affiliates (third party firms that receive financial incentives to attract new customers such as FootyAccumulators or Football Super Tips).
Analysis showed that tweets fell in nine categories: direct advertising, betting assistance, sports content, customer engagement, humour, update of current bet status, promotional content, safer gambling, and ‘other’.
The study also looked at the number of posts in each category. Results showed that gambling affiliates were more aggressive in their use of social media for direct advertising, with just under two-thirds of their posts falling into the ‘direct advertising’ or ‘betting assistance’ categories. Alternatively, gambling operators tended to take a clearer branding approach, with a higher percentage of their content falling into the ‘sports content’ and ‘humour’ categories.
Very little attention was given to safer gambling messages by gambling operators (1.6 %) and only one affiliate made a post primarily referring to safer gambling (0.2 %). Also, there were no age restrictions placed upon access to affiliate accounts, allowing exposure of direct gambling marketing to underage individuals on social media.
Scott said: ‘Tweets made to promote safer gambling behaviour were sparse for gambling operators and even more so for affiliates.
‘Our findings will be used to advise current British policy to ensure gambling is marketed in a way which allows for recreational enjoyment and also protects the vulnerable. Further research is underway to assess how gamblers respond to marketing upon social media and whether this differs between the two account types highlighted in the current research.’
John Wayne did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.
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