Using Social Media Gambling Ads To Promote Gambling


Posted: April 27, 2024

Updated: April 27, 2024

Let's be honest here, gambling companies are not in the "honesty" business. In many cases, it's clear they prefer to break the rules in order to make a financial killing, already knowing the penalties (if any) will be paltry in comparison to their profits. It's the same story with using social media for gambling ads. The fact that it's mainly children seeing them doesn't matter to the iGaming industry.

For quite some time, there’s been a discussion about how social media influences gamblers. This is a particular concern when including those who are just starting out, potentially leading them down a path toward gambling addiction. The internet, along with search engines like Google, has significantly shaped gambling marketing for the past 15 years. Initially, Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising was a big deal. It worked wonders for online casinos, especially for those webmasters who were running affiliate sites. They could inundate search engines with a stream of great offers to attract customers. However, it’s important to note that these social media gambling ads were (and still are) targeted only at countries where gambling is legal.

Over the past decade, as Google’s algorithms have evolved, gambling advertising has become even more competitive. Many agencies now have big budgets allocated for PPC campaigns, and organic marketing methods like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) have also seen a surge in competition. Essentially, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which covers both PPC and SEO, has become a cornerstone of many iGaming companies’ marketing strategies.

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The Growing Importance Of Social Media Gambling Ads To The iGaming Industry

Social media has become a powerful tool for gambling companies to attract new customers. According to online casino news in the UK, Facebook is very effective in this regard. However, changes in the corporate structure of social media platforms, like Facebook now being under Meta, have led to shifts in advertising regulations. This is especially true when it comes to factors concerning social media gambling ads. Companies like Bet365 Casino now need explicit permission from Meta to run gambling marketing campaigns on Facebook. Furthermore, they must adhere to a strict set of criteria. This includes not targeting regions where gambling is illegal and avoiding underage audiences.

Too Many Rules For Cynical Betting Companies

Additionally, companies must ensure that their advertising language meets specific standards set by relevant gambling commissions and advertising regulators, such as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). This means avoiding false or misleading claims. Many larger gambling operators, with substantial marketing budgets, find paid social media gambling ads to be more trouble than it’s worth. Especially since they already have significant brand recognition. As a result, they tend to utilize other advertising channels like television.

social media gambling ads
Picture Source: Blue Diamond Gallery

Because of this, smaller gambling companies and affiliate websites see Facebook as a marketing platform with plenty of potential. However, competition is fierce. Meaning that standing out can be challenging. The effectiveness of social media gambling ads often depends on the strength of the offer and how it’s communicated. But with new and stricter regulations, gambling companies face more obstacles to success.

Is The Public Now More Susceptible To Ads?

In some parts of the world, there are strict regulations on gambling companies. This is to help prevent addiction. Recently, social media has come under fire for this. The UK is one of the places where they’ve recognized the need for tighter rules on gambling ads. Researchers from Bristol University say that gambling companies are using “tricky” social media gambling ads to attract more young people. These ads often blur the line between gambling and popular culture. Thus making it hard for kids to see them as ads. As a result, kids start following these companies. Meaning that they are more likely to sign up once they’re old enough. Let’s face it, it’s a pretty sneaky tactic as it makes gambling seem cool.

Gambling Companies Are Playing Fast And Loose

The same report suggests that the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) should make it a rule for social media gambling ads to clearly say “This is gambling marketing.” A previous study found that the top five gambling companies made 19,100 posts on social media in just eight months.

social media gambling ads
Picture Source: Flickr

That’s a total of about 80 posts a day. Another investigation by media regulator Ofcom in 2022 found that a third of UK children on social media claimed to be over 18. Shockingly, only 43% of children could correctly identify content marketing as advertising, compared to 65% of adults. Even though all participants were told beforehand what advertising is, these findings are concerning. The rise of content marketing is worrying because it seems like gambling companies are finding ways to get around advertising rules. If self-regulation isn’t effective, and why would it be, then stricter measures might be needed to protect children. 

The Importance Of Ethical Advertising 

A representative from the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) emphasized the importance of advertising adhering to strict guidelines and promoting safer gambling messages. They pointed out that previous government research didn’t find a direct link between exposure to ads and problem gambling. Nevertheless, BGC members have implemented new age verification rules for social media gambling ads. This is to prevent minors from accessing them. They continue to maintain a strict stance against underage betting. They also note that the most popular forms of gambling among children, like arcade games and fruit machines, are not offered by BGC members.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) echoed these sentiments, stressing their commitment to ensuring responsible gambling advertising. They focus on safeguarding young and vulnerable audiences and won’t hesitate to ban social media gambling ads that violate these rules, especially those targeting under-18s. In the UK, studies show a significant increase in gambling companies’ marketing expenditure from 2014 to 2017, reaching £1.5 billion. A large portion of this was directed towards digital marketing, including social media.

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Deliberately Pavlovian Ads For The Young

In addition to regulatory concerns, there’s a cognitive aspect to consider in advertising. The complex terms and conditions of gambling offers can be difficult for even young adults to fully understand. Many are drawn to the top online casino sites in the UK  thanks to attractive welcome bonuses promising large amounts of money in free spins or cash bets. However, they often overlook the wagering requirements. This is where they have to bet a certain amount before withdrawing winnings. This lack of understanding can lead to addiction before their players realize what’s happening.

The Fight To Regulate US Social Media Gambling Ads 

Newly regulated areas, like several states in the US online gambling market, are still figuring out how to handle online gambling. This means they’re home to many potential gamblers who might not understand the risks of harmful social media gambling ads. Compared to the UK, the US is far behind in regulating gambling dangers. For instance, during the 2016 US presidential election, many people didn’t realize the use of propaganda through Facebook ads.

social media gambling ads
Picture Source: Needpix

In many ways, this highlights a broader issue with recognizing online manipulation. It poses a huge problem for the US gambling industry. Especially since there’s no central authority, and each state has its own rules. This leaves millions of potential new customers vulnerable to social media gambling ads. Especially if/when US companies follow the UK’s lead in blurring the lines between content marketing and advertising to attract underage customers.

Do Gambling Companies Even Care?

Additionally, many Americans may not fully grasp gambling terminology yet. They might be drawn in by the apparent benefits of welcome packages without understanding the risks hidden in the fine print. Despite some states allowing online gambling, regulations often fall short of UK standards. This should be cause for concern. And while Facebook can profit from social media gambling ads without much government interference, US gambling companies targeting customers are unlikely to change their methods in pulling in new customers.

To Ban Or Not To Ban Social Media Gambling Ads.

It’s clear that there’s a need for some changes in how gambling companies advertise on social media and what’s allowed. It seems like there’s more awareness about this issue in the UK, which tends to lead the way in gambling regulations. Also, since many gambling companies like Bet365 Casino operate in different countries, they figure out what they can get away with in one place compared to others. Some might say the safest bet to avoid confusion is to ban all social media gambling ads. But such is the power of the iGaming industry, that’s unlikely to happen. What seems certain is that this will continue to be a problem. At the same time, gambling companies will keep finding ways to work around restrictions. For now, it looks like social media gambling ads are here to stay.

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