Gambling companies ‘not doing enough’ to promote safety on Twitter, conference told

Betting companies are giving “very little attention” to promoting safe gambling on social media, according to a study of their online messages.

Research found that just 1.6 per cent of Twitter messages by gambling operators including Paddy Power, Bet365, SkyBet, Coral and William Hill promoted safe betting practices.

The study by postgraduate researchers at Northumbria University will be presented to the British Psychological Society annual conference in Harrogate today and will be used to advise future gambling policies. Researchers looked at the Twitter accounts of the UK’s highest-grossing gambling operators, and of “gambling affiliates”, third party firms which receive financial incentives to draw customers, like FootyAccumulators or Football Super Tips.

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Messages promoting safety were sparse among gambling operators, just once per 100 tweets on average, and just one affiliate made a post primarily referring to safer gambling, the research found.

Postgraduate researcher Scott Houghton said: “The online gambling industry in the UK is now the largest gambling sector in the country. One possible explanation is the combination of the mobile nature of online gambling and the sheer scale of marketing by gambling companies. In this study we assessed the type and frequency of content posted via Twitter from gambling operators and their affiliates.

“Tweets made to promote safer gambling behaviour were sparse for gambling operators and even more so for affiliates.”

Results also showed that gambling affiliates were more aggressive in their use of social media for direct advertising, with just under two-thirds of their posts falling into the ‘direct advertising’ or ‘betting assistance’ categories.

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There were also no age restrictions placed upon access to affiliate accounts, allowing exposure of direct gambling marketing to underage individuals on social media.

Mr Houghton said: “Our findings will be used to advise current British policy to ensure gambling is marketed in a way which allows for recreational enjoyment and also protects the vulnerable.

“Further research is underway to assess how gamblers respond to marketing upon social media and whether this differs between the two account types highlighted in the current research”

Separate research presented to the conference in Harrogate found that people who have been targeted by internet bullies need more help to address feelings of self disgust which exacerbate the impact.

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Research by Sheffield Hallam University looked at the psychological effects of online abuse and its links to depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and symptoms of physical illness.

Researchers said the way people experience cyberbullying is a largely unexplored area, and their findings showed that people who were more likely to feel victimised online, and have been a victim of cyberbullying, also experienced higher feelings of self-disgust.

Dr Lambros Lazuras said: “We already know that cyberbullying has a negative impact on young people’s physical and mental health, but our study shines a new light on one important factor in this process.

“Self-disgust can exacerbate the impact of cyberbullying on the victim, and those working in support services should look to address how victims feel about themselves when supporting people who have been targeted online.”