A Christian advocacy group has told the gambling industry that it must do more to ensure the safety of vulnerable people online.
Its call comes as a new study warned betting giants are doing little to promote safe gambling on Twitter, amid the ‘sheer scale’ of their marketing.
“Online gambling in the UK is bigger than ever before and it’s never been so easy to place bets, with a wide variety of apps and websites all providing platforms on which to gamble,” James Mildred, Christian Action Research & Education’s (CARE) communications manager, told The Catholic Universe.
“The gambling industry has a duty to do all it can to make sure gamblers are properly aware of the dangers of problem gambling and the health risks as well.”
Mr Mildred’s call comes as researchers from Northumbria University found that operators promote safe gambling messages just over once in every 100 tweets (1.6 per cent).
Researchers checked the Twitter accounts of the 40 highest-grossing British gambling operators and selected five with the highest number of followers – Paddy Power, Bet365, SkyBet, Coral and William Hill.
A similar method was followed with gambling affiliates – third party firms that receive financial incentives to attract new customers such as FootyAccumulators or Football Super Tips.
The researchers found ‘very little attention’ was given to safer gambling messages, while only one affiliate posted on safer gambling.
Researcher Scott Houghton said: “The online gambling industry in the UK is now the largest gambling sector in the country.
“Tweets made to promote safer gambling behaviour were sparse and even more so for affiliates.
“Our findings will be used to ensure gambling is marketed in a way which allows for recreational enjoyment and also protects the vulnerable.”
Mr Mildred said the report shows that gambling firms are “simply not doing enough” to ensure they are using their social media platforms in an appropriately responsible way to share messages about safer gambling.
“Combined together, the five biggest gambling companies in terms of twitter followers have approximately 2 million followers,” he said. “It is absolutely right that they should be expected to promote an appropriate level of safer gambling messaging.
“Hundreds of thousands of people are classified as problem gamblers, with plenty more at risk of becoming so. While for some, gambling is harmless fun, for a significant minority it causes devastation in their lives and the lives of their families,” Mr Mildred added.
Picture: A smartphone user accesses the William Hill gambling website on their phone and a laptop. (John Stillwell/PA).