1.4 Gambling advertising

Gambling advertising is increasing across a range of media, both in terms of how much there is and how much is spent on it.

According to research commissioned by GambleAware, ‘paid for’ advertising spend in the UK increased by 24% in three years, from £264.7m in 2015 to £328.9m in 2018.1 These figures exclude online advertising spend, because there is limited long-term trend data available.

In the UK, gambling advertising is regulated by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code, which requires that marketing communications for gambling must not be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.2 However, children and young people are exposed to gambling advertising in a wide range of contexts.

Young people’s exposure to gambling ads

Young people are regularly exposed to gambling ads. According to a report by GambleAware, 96% of 11-24 year olds in the UK had seen gambling ads in the last month.3

“I noticed lotto ads everywhere, on TV, outside shops, in the newspaper, all around town. It’s advertising so often that I didn’t even think it was gambling until this interview. It being all around makes it feel like a normal everyday thing to do.”

Young person, aged 20

Gambling Commission statistics indicate that young people are most likely to be exposed to advertising via television – 56% of 11-16 year olds report seeing gambling ads on TV at least once a week.4

However, advertising is increasingly shifting online, much like gambling participation. In young people 11-16 years old:5

  • 49%

    See gambling ads on social media at least once a week

  • 43%

    see gambling ads on websites other than social media at least once a week

  • 12%

    follow or watch gambling companies on social media websites – most commonly YouTube (8%), Instagram (7%), and Snapchat (6%)

Despite the CAP Code, research also indicates that gambling advertising on social media, like Twitter, is significantly more appealing to children and young people than it is to adults.6

Impact of gambling ads on young people

Gambling companies advertise for a reason – exposure to gambling advertising has an impact on young people’s gambling participation. GambleAware research found that among 11-24 year olds:7 

  • Young people with higher brand awareness were more likely to currently gamble 
  • Young people with higher brand awareness or a higher level of exposure to ads were more likely to say they would gamble in the future

Research by the Royal Society for Public Health found that almost two thirds of adults (63%) and over half of 11-17s (53%) are in favour of a total ban on gambling ads.8