When you see an advert for a betting company, it is usually followed by a declaration that you should ‘Gamble Responsibly’. Depending on how it is that you consume your gambling adverts, the warning that you’re issued with will differ from incident to incident.
Regardless, are you likely to pay much attention? In this day and age, it would be extremely unlikely that you’d be able to find someone that doesn’t know that gambling is a risky activity. Instead, most people will be more than aware that you need to gamble responsibly, so won’t pay much attention to such warnings.
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission is altering its rules on a regular basis when it comes to what companies are and are not allowed to say about things. Links to responsible gambling options that are available to customers are a must, whilst those choosing to gamble must be able to meet the Know Your Customer requirements of the licence issued by the UKGC.
Betting sites have to work hard to ensure that people understand the risks that they’re taking by gambling, but do many people actually pay all that much attention? If you’re looking to place a bet, will you pay much heed to someone telling you not to?
Gambling Warnings As A Concept
For a number of years, there has been a focus around responsible gambling that sites offering betting products have had to put forward. ‘When The Fun Stops, Stop’ was a slogan first used in 2015 and has remained in play ever since. That was when an independently formed watchdog called the Senet Group was set up by William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and Paddy Power in response to concern from the general public about gambling adverts. The following was said about the slogan at the time: “This initiative is a new and important step in the evolution of responsible behaviour among British-based gambling businesses.”
It was just part of a raft of changes that were brought in in order to ensure that more responsible gambling was taking place. At the same time, it was necessary for sites and advertisers to make the point that players need to be aged 18 or over, whilst the terms and conditions of betting sites also had more focus put on them.
Regardless of the type of advert used, there had to be an emphasis on the responsible gambling angle in order to drive home the point that people needed to think more about what they were spending whilst gambling and whether they can afford to lose what they’re betting with.
Do Such Warnings Make Any Difference?
The main reason for the warnings is the hope that it will make a difference to bettors who might not have the most healthy relationship with gambling. The hope when the warnings were introduced was that it would see a reduction in the number of cases of people suffering from gambling addictions, but the suggestion not long after they became a regular feature on gambling adverts was that they had made little difference.
Certainly the evidence suggests that the ‘When The Fun Stops, Stop’ slogan was nowhere near as impactful as it was hoped when it was launched.
Part of the problem identified by academics at the University of Warwick was that the word ‘fun’ was printed in larger font than any of the other words in the message, perhaps subliminally telling people that it was the fun part that mattered rather than the responsible gambling information.
Across 506 people who were bettors that like the Premier League, some were shown a warning label with a gambling advert and some were not. Those that were shown the responsible gambling warning actually ended up betting more often than those that hadn’t seen it.
Dr Lukasz Walasek, one of the authors of the report, said, “The purpose of the “When the fun stops, stop” warning labels is to encourage more responsible gambling behaviour. Yet there is hardly any evidence suggesting that such labels are effective.”
Whilst it was never intended to discourage people from betting in any way, shape or form, the hope was at least that it would make people pause in their gambling and reflect on what they were doing, which is what the Bet Regret campaign was also aimed at doing. Sadly, it didn’t appear to make any notable difference.
At the same time, Gillian Wilmot, who was the chair of the Senet Group, said that the slogan had managed to generate “substantial awareness of the link between negative emotional states and problem gambling, giving young men an accessible phrase to challenge each other’s behaviour in a way that has now passed into popular culture.” Even so, the immediate impact of the study was to encourage a re-look at the campaign, including the likelihood of adjusting the size of the word ‘fun’, with a new creative brief aimed at having more of an impact on bettors around their gambling behaviour.
Some Phrases Are More Impactful Than Others
A piece published in Science Direct looked at different forms of warning messages that were put on Electronic Gaming Machines in various venues to see whether some had more of an impact than others. It was discovered that there was indeed more response to certain things more than others.
If the message was one of self-appraisal, that seemed to have a decent effect on certain bettors. Messages such as ‘Have you spent more than you can afford?’, ‘Is money all you are losing?’ and ‘Are you playing longer than planned?’ did seem to cause players to reflect more consistently.
On the other hand, messages that appeared almost ‘telling off’ in their approach were less successful. Ones that said something such as ‘Set your limit. Play within it’ or ‘A winner knows when to stop gambling’ were much less likely to result in players self-limiting their play on the EGMs.
The most successful message was ‘Do you need a break? Gamble responsibly’, which was remembered by 65% of people, whilst only 37% remembered ‘Have you spend more than you can afford?’, showing the difference in levels of response depending on the message being put forward.