What do you get when you mix esports, cryptocurrencies, social media, and teenagers? If you answered a headache for regulators and parents, then pat yourself on the back. Both cryptocurrencies and esports have been on the rise in recent years, and both of them are very popular among young people. It seems clear to me that this is something that a lot of insidious marketing teams are quite happy to exploit, with many underage and young people gambling online.
A recent study from the University of Bristol highlighted the fact that esports gambling adverts did a particularly good job of attracting the attention of young people. If you search for esports on Twitter, you will see why. Many of the posts I encountered were clearly gambling adverts disguised as engagement posts. Plus, they often utilize popular video game imagery to grab attention.
The same study showed that nearly 50% of people under the age of 18 were encountering gambling advertising online once a week. Nearly 75% of people under 24 were seeing the same. A lot of this was through esports advertising. It also showed that young people were more likely to have a positive emotional reaction to these ads. I can’t say I’m surprised about these statistics, with multiple of the ads I saw making me feel out of touch.
Several of these ads would also use footage from popular video games or memes and GIFs to grab attention. A lot of these companies will also encourage the use of cryptocurrencies, which I believe causes a range of issues.
The results I mentioned earlier were collected from the UK, which has stricter regulations than most countries. That suggests to me that these figures could be even higher elsewhere. I find these numbers very alarming, and I think now is the time for the gambling industry and social media companies to start addressing these.
In my opinion, a key aim of both gambling companies and social media sites should be to protect the young and the vulnerable. The gambling industry has cleaned up its image a lot in recent years. Still, I believe companies that use these tactics are a reason an air of taboo hangs around. In my opinion, finding ways to control these adverts should be a priority.
It seems to me that social media companies need to put clearer restrictions on these kinds of adverts. The use of certain imagery surrounding gambling advertising should be banned, and ads need to be clearly marked. Instagram users have had to mark ads for anything with a notification in recent years and the same should apply to all social media platforms.
I also think cryptocurrencies create a huge problem in this area. Many of the adverts you will find encourage the use of crypto, and the cynic inside me can’t help but think this is no accident. Many banks have restrictions on online gambling. As such, a lot of young people don’t have the ability to access fiat currencies online. Cryptos allow for a way in through the back door.
Crypto transactions are also very difficult to monitor, which makes it tricky for parents to keep an eye on what young people are up to. Again, there is no simple fix to this issue. That’s why I believe that social media companies need to learn to monitor these kinds of ads better. Also, companies that promote their product in a certain way should face punishments.
Another option is marketing preferences being set by adults. When a person signs up to social media, I think they should have the option of what kind of advertising they want to see. If you are a consenting adult, then there is no problem with being shown gambling advertising, but it should not be accessible for young people. Having filters and parental controls in place for advertising would be a simple but effective move on the part of social media companies. It would also send out a statement that these companies are out to shut these kinds of things down.
By doing this, you also avoid a blanket ban on gambling ads. I believe that this is the path that will be taken eventually if there is no communication. We have seen gambling companies face similar restrictions in other mediums, and it is going to be damaging in the long run.
There will always be a small minority of questionable operators working in the gambling industry. These will drag down the reputation of the majority of companies that don’t prey on younger gamblers. Esports and crypto have allowed some of these to find a new way of reaching vulnerable and young players and they need to be stopped.
I love placing a cheeky sports bet and having a spin of the reels. I have no issues with seeing these things myself but there is a need to prevent it from seeping through to those who need protecting.
As the internet and online gambling evolve, they are always facing new problems. Esports and crypto are bound to cause years of headache if companies don’t begin to act fast and clear guidelines aren’t drawn. With so many young people engaging with these adverts and having an investment in esports and crypto, I think things need to change quickly to prevent too much damage from being done.
This article delivers the thoughts and opinions of the author, and it doesn't represent the stance of GoodLuckMate.