House of Lords library sheds light on impact of gambling marketing

Lea Hogg 1 month ago
House of Lords library sheds light on impact of gambling marketing

The UK House of Lords library has turned its focus towards a pressing issue – the impact of gambling marketing. This topic has been gaining traction due to the expansion of the gambling industry in recent years and the subsequent increase in gambling-related harms.

The library, known for its extensive resources and research, published an in-depth analysis earlier this week. The piece, authored by Thomas Weston, explores the role that the marketing of gambling services plays in exacerbating these harms.

Categorized under Business, Culture, Media & Sport, and Health, the publication is set to spark a debate in the House of Lords on 25 April 2024. As the industry continues to grow, the Lords are keen to address these issues and discuss potential solutions. 

Does marketing fuel problem gambling?

In the world of gambling, the role of marketing strategies such as advertising and sponsorship in exacerbating problem gambling remains a contentious issue. A report by the House of Lords Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry in July 2020 highlighted a correlation between gambling advertising and problem gambling. However, it stated that no concrete evidence or research had been presented to establish a causal link between the two.

This sentiment was echoed in a Public Health England (PHE) evidence review published in September 2021. The review scrutinized studies aimed at identifying risk factors for gambling and harmful gambling. It concluded that while advertising and marketing do influence general gambling activity, there is a “lack of review-level evidence” to suggest that marketing and advertising are risk factors for harmful gambling.

The issue becomes more complex. Despite the absence of empirical evidence, several observations have been made that paint a concerning picture.

The paper refers to a 2018 report by the think tank Respublica. They estimate that nearly a quarter of online gambling profits are derived from problem gamblers. An additional third of the profit share is believed to come from those on the brink of developing gambling problems.

The exact figures on the gambling industry’s marketing spending remain elusive, shrouded in mystery. However, a glimmer of understanding comes from a 2018 report by Regulus Partners. They estimate that gambling advertising and marketing spending surged from around £1 billion in 2014 to over £1.5 billion in 2017. Considering the Gambling Commission’s estimation of the total industry revenue in the year to March 2017 being £13.8 billion, it suggests that over 10 percent of industry revenue is channelled into marketing.

House of Lords debate this week

Fast forward to February 2023, the Public Health journal publishes an article. They have been examining evidence on the impacts of gambling-related advertising that could lead to gambling-related harm. Their findings reveal that a higher percentage of those experiencing moderate risk or problem gambling reported that social media promotions for gambling worsened their problems compared to low-risk and non-problem gamblers.

In light of these observations, the Lords committee scrutinizing this issue is expressing skepticism about the non-existence of a link between advertising and problem gambling. They argue that it seems counter-intuitive for companies to invest increasingly large sums in advertising if they did not believe it would increase the overall amount gambled, the amount gambled with their company, or both, and subsequently result in an increase in gambling-related harms. This skepticism casts a shadow over the industry, raising questions that demand answers.

The issues are set to be discussed by the House of Lords on 25 April, 2024.

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