Bookmakers across the UK are being forced to rethink their current advertising strategies associated with esports tournaments/events following a new report commissioned by cross-party think tank Demos and the Department of Management at the University of Bristol

The new report, entitled Biddable Youth, addresses an industry-wide need to roll out additional age verification measures which effectively prevent underage audiences from engaging with betting-related content. 

Josh Smith, the co-author of the report, addressed the matters covered: “This report explores a vital new field of gambling online, which encourages people to bet on the outcome of video games.

“We found that high volumes of messages are produced to appeal particularly to children, with thousands of children in the UK following and responding to this content.

“We hope this report serves as a call to action – both to technology companies to make it easier for gambling customers to get a clear picture of what they’re getting into, and to regulators who must continue to ensure that these new actors are compliant with regulation.”

The authors of the report explained that 28 per cent of the current online audiences that respond to social media posts promoting esports events and betting odds are under the age of 16, following the analysis of 888,000 betting-related tweets over nine months in 2018. 

According to the research, it was found that UK children are ‘five times’ more likely to engage with esports-related betting tweets, than with traditional sports betting inventories (5% of audiences).

It was also highlighted that 74% of esports betting tweets were not in line with current UK advertising regulations, particularly when it comes to both the messaging and imagery used. 

Conditions breached include ‘presenting betting as an income source’ – ‘encouraging gambling at unsociable times’ and ‘use of persons under-25 in a gambling advert’.

As it stands, guidelines issued by CAP state that bookmaker advertising must not appeal to children or young audiences, through being associated-or-reflecting ‘youth culture particularly if they are generally available to view by them.

Professor Agnes Nairn, from the University of Bristol, said: “We were really surprised at the number of children actively engaging with esports gambling accounts.

“Yet with the massive growth in the esports industry, unless action is taken, we can only expect this figure to rise as sports and gambling seem to be inextricably linked.”