Online gambling adverts that are encouraging children to start betting at an early age “should be banned”, according to a newspaper columnist.
Writing in The Times, Alice Thomson said that adverts for online gambling are now “everywhere” on social media and are “usually aimed at specific markets: the young and known gamblers”.
Thomson pointed out that some websites are now using children’s cartoon characters to encourage children to bet on games such as “Top Cat, Peter Pan, Jungle Books or Goldilocks”.
Over the course of writing her article, she saw an advert on her Twitter feed from the National Lottery that said: “What can you get for £1? A slice of pizza or win £500,000?”
The columnist said: “Online ads are deliberately targeting not just children but the most vulnerable.
“The Gambling Commission estimates that nearly two million people in the UK are either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction.”
Thomson also highlighted figures from the Commission which found that almost half a million children under 16 are betting each week.
‘Should be banned’
Contrasting the banning of online gambling in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, she said this approach would be “too extreme for the British” who have no issues with “having a flutter on the Grand National or a royal baby’s name”.
“But gambling advertising should be banned, sites should not use children’s cartoon characters and sports teams should wean themselves off gambling firms’ money.”
Thomson believes that problem gambling needs to be treated “as a socially destructive habit that we don’t want our children to acquire”.
‘Normalisation of gambling’
In response to her article, Conservative peer Lord Chadlington pointed towards the surge in gambling advertising on TV, which has reportedly increased by 43 per cent since 2012.
Lord Chadlington wrote a letter to The Times saying: “Some 95 per cent of TV advertising breaks during live UK football matches feature at least one gambling advert.”
He went on to warn: “The inevitable consequences of allowing this normalisation of gambling to go unchecked will be an increase in problem gamblers, mental health issues, financial distress and family breakdown.”
Rules lifting advertising restrictions were introduced in the Gambling Act 2005. They allow bookmakers to advertise before the watershed for bingo or during live sports broadcasts.
Before the Act was introduced, The Christian Institute warned it would lead to gambling advertising becoming widespread.
In ‘Gambling with our future’, the Institute predicted: “Gambling advertising will appear everywhere from street corners to television and gambling in a casino will become as easy as playing the National Lottery.”