Influencers make gambling look 'cool' and ‘acceptable’

Ashley Regan
By Ashley Regan | 13 February 2024
Credit: Erik Mclean via Unsplash

Children, as young as 12, believe that celebrities and influencers paid to promote gambling increase trust, legitimacy and social acceptance, according to a study by the Australian Research Council.

The federal government has been considering a parliamentary inquiry recommendation to ban gambling advertising over three years, after strong protests from sectors of the media and from gambling platforms.

The researchers, from Deakin, Wollongong and Curtin universities, said to protect the next generation from gambling harm there should be a special focus on monitoring novel approaches designed to influence young people.

Some of the 64 children from New South Wales and Victoria interviewed for the study said that celebrities or SMIs promoting gambling made it seem ‘okay to gamble’ and made it appear ‘acceptable to do’.

This included one 13-year-old boy who suggested that because SMIs were very culturally relevant it might ‘increase the appeal of gambling by showing how much more modern it’s becoming’.

In particular, children feel closer to social media influencers because they have more legitimacy than celebrities as they are part of their online communities.

A 12-year-old boy described the impact:

"A lot of influencers’ audience are younger like under 20s. So, if they show off gambling... for the people within the legal age, they’ll probably go, ‘Well, if my idol, my favourite YouTuber, Instagrammer, TikToker is gambling maybe I should give it a try’."

A 13-year-old girl also explained:

"Young people when they see like the ad without the YouTuber, they wouldn’t think it’s as like cool and um like it’s not as tempting to do. But as soon as they see a famous YouTuber or TikToker or Instagram like they think that suddenly it’s cool and they’re doing it, so they want to be just like what they’re doing."

Young people may also be influenced by the selective portrayal of gambling outcomes, including presenting the positive impacts of gambling such as winning money without addressing the potential risks or losses.

This may not accurately reflect the realities of gambling and can create ignorance about the risks associated with gambling products.

A 13-year-old girl describes: 

"I think personally that when celebrities like do participate in ads for gambling, they’re not thinking about the wellbeing of others. They’re just thinking about the money that they’re going to earn through doing the ad. They’re not thinking about the young people that are watching it. So, I don’t really think that they should be participating in these ads."

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