WA News Guest Opinion / Editorial Gambling on Young Minds
Gambling on Young Minds
Written by Dr Melissa Stoneham
Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Online Gambling is everywhere! Whether you’re watching sport, playing online games, using social media or just taking a stroll through the city it’s hard to miss. And anyone with a smartphone or tablet can gamble anytime – day or night – even if they're underage.

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This sort of access, particularly to those under the age of 18 years, should be of serious concern to the public health sector. And so should the enticement tactics used by online sports betting agencies.


Teenagers are up to four times more likely to develop a gambling problem compared with adults, and one in five adults with a gambling problem started before they turned 18 and indigenous young people are particularly vulnerable.


A recent Australian study looked at the exposure of young people to the promotion of online gambling and the use of social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Seven major wagering brands were selected, representing

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sponsorship relationships with different football teams and codes. YouTube was the most influential platform in attracting young people to online gambling. These audio-visual clips use humour, sexual innuendo and, predictably enough, lots of celebrities!


Twitter is also used extensively in the sports-betting area, most notably in ‘real time’ with prompts to place bets while actually viewing the event. Some examples to the left (1 & 2):

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The absence of Responsible Gambling messages and the prevalence of Refund Betting on Twitter is of real concern. The promotion of a no risk/no lose scenario – if you lose $150 we’ll give you a $100 refund is not something to be encouraged.


On Facebook it was found that the use of cartoons, often portraying team mascots, is designed to engage younger fans with online content. Some examples to the left (3 & 4):


It’s a refreshing sign that some AFL players have begun to speak out regarding the onslaught of gambling advertising and are now calling for tougher restrictions.


Western Bulldogs captain Easton Wood recently called gambling a ‘sinister and dangerous activity’ and highlighted the fact that it occurs ‘every time their footy heroes ‘pull on their boots’. Such comments from within the sports themselves increase public awareness of online gambling with the added ‘clout’ of stars of the game adding their actual voice.


The online saturation of the gambling promotion message normalises gambling. It would appear that young people are increasingly associating gambling as an integral part of the sporting experience. The last thing we want is fans, irrespective of their age-group, talking about the odds of their team winning, rather than will their team win.

It’s time to act!


References on request

By Dr Melissa Stoneham