Journal of Gambling Studies

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 125–141 | Cite as

An Exploratory Study of Gambling Operators’ Use of Social Media and the Latent Messages Conveyed

  • Sally M. Gainsbury
  • Paul Delfabbro
  • Daniel L. King
  • Nerilee Hing
Original Paper


Advertisements for gambling products have historically been restricted due to their potential to normalize gambling and contribute to excessive gambling behaviours among vulnerable populations. However, social media enables gambling operators to promote products and brands with fewer constraints than in traditional forms of media. This study investigated how social media is used by gambling operators to promote gambling activities including an analysis of the latent messages that are conveyed. A representative sample of major land-based and online gambling venues and operators, including casinos, clubs, hotels, lottery and wagering operators (n = 101), was obtained. Websites and social media profiles of gambling operators were audited to investigate the types of social media used, content of promotions, and prevalence of responsible gambling messaging. The results showed that Facebook and Twitter were the dominant platforms used, most commonly by casinos and online wagering operators. A key finding was that online gambling operators included gambling content in conjunction with related news and events, as well as unrelated content, as way of normalizing gambling within a broader social context. Unlike land-based gambling promotions, responsible gambling information tended not to feature in operators’ posts and profiles. The key messages propagated in social media gambling promotions were positively framed, and tended to encourage gambling using a range of cross-promotional tactics to emphasize the winning aspect of gambling. The implications of freely accessible and pervasive gambling promotions via social media are discussed with respect to the general community as well as vulnerable populations.


Gambling operators Social media Social networking Public health Internet marketing Advertising Responsible gambling 



This study was commissioned by Gambling Research Australia—a partnership between the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments. GRA had no involvement in the research design, conduct, analysis or the preparation of this paper.

Conflict of interest

SG and NH have worked on research grants funded by Australian gambling operators through their institutions. SG and NH have spoken at industry-funded conferences with travel costs paid. The authors have no other real or perceived financial or non-financial conflicts of interests directly or indirectly related to this research to declare. PD and DK have no conflicts of interest to declare.


  1. Abrams, D. B., Monti, P. M., Carey, K. B., Pinto, R. P., & Jacobus, S. I. (1988). Reactivity to smoking cues and relapse: Two studies of discriminant validity. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 26, 225–233.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Advertising Standards Bureau. (2013). Social media advertising. Retrieved from
  3. Anderson, P., De Bruijn, A., Angus, K., Gordon, R., & Hastings, G. (2009). Impact of alcohol advertising and media exposure on adolescent alcohol use: A systematic review of longitudinal studies. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 44, 229–243.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. (2014). Social media. Retrieved from
  5. Biener, L., & Siegel, M. (2000). Tobacco marketing and adolescent smoking: more support for a causal inference. American Journal of Public Health, 90(3), 407.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Binde, P. (2009). Exploring the impact of gambling advertising: An interview study of problem gamblers. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 7(4), 541–554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Binde, P. (2014). Gambling advertising: A critical research review. London: Responsible Gambling Trust.Google Scholar
  8. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Collins, R., Ellickson, P., McCaffrey, D., & Hambarsoomians, K. (2007). Early adolescent exposure to alcohol advertising and its relationship to underage drinking. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40, 527–534.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Consumer Reports. (2012, June). That Facebook friend might be 10 years old, and other troubling news. Consumer Reports Magazine. Retrieved June, 2011, from
  11. Cotte, J., & Latour, K. (2009). Blackjack in the kitchen: Understanding online versus casino gambling. The Journal of Consumer Research, 35(5), 742–758.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dadich, A. M., Burton, S. M., & Soboleva, A. (2013). Promotion of alcohol on Twitter. The Medical Journal of Australia, 199(5), 327–329.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Delfabbro, P., Lahn, J., & Grabosky, P. (2005). Further evidence concerning the prevalence of adolescent gambling and problem gambling in Australia: A study of the ACT. International Gambling Studies, 5(2), 209–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Derevensky, J., Sklar, A., Gupta, R., Messerlian, C., Laroche, M., & Mansour, S. (2007). The effects of gambling advertisements on children and adolescent gambling attitudes and behaviors. Montreal, QC: McGill University.Google Scholar
  15. Effertz, T., Franke, M. K., & Teichert, T. (2014). Adolescents’ assessments of advertisements for unhealthy food: An example of warning labels for soft drinks. Journal of Consumer Policy, 37, 279–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Felsher, J., Derevensky, J., & Gupta, R. (2004). Lottery playing amongst youth: Implications for prevention and social policy. Journal of Gambling Studies, 20, 127–153.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Freeman, B., Chapman, S., & Rimmer, M. (2008). The case for the plain packaging of tobacco products. Addiction, 103, 580–590.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Freeman, B., Kelly, B., Baur, L., Chapman, K., Chapman, S., Gill, T., & King, L. (2014). Digital junk: Food and beverage marketing on Facebook. American Journal of Public Health, 104(12), e56–e64.Google Scholar
  19. Friend, K. B., & Ladd, G. T. (2009). Youth gambling advertising: A review of the lessons learned from tobacco control. Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy, 16(4), 283–297.Google Scholar
  20. Gainsbury, S., Russell, A., & Blaszczynski, A. (2014a). Are psychology university student gamblers representative of non-university students and general gamblers? A comparative analysis. Journal of Gambling Studies, 30, 11–25.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Gainsbury, S., Russell, A., Blaszczynski, A., & Hing, N. (2014b). The interaction between gambling activities and modes of access: A comparison of Internet-only, land-based only, and mixed-mode gamblers. Addictive Behaviors,. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.09.023.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Gainsbury, S., Russell, A., Hing, N., Wood, R., Lubman, D., & Blaszczynski, A. (2014c). The prevalence and determinants of problem gambling in Australia: Assessing the impact of interactive gambling and new technologies. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 28(3), 769–779.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Gainsbury, S., Russell, A., Wood, R., Hing, N., & Blaszczynski, A. (2014d). How risky is Internet gambling? A comparison of subgroups of Internet gamblers based on problem gambling status. New Media & Society,. doi: 10.1177/1461444813518185.Google Scholar
  24. Grant, J. E., & Kim, S. (2001). Demographic and clinical features of 131 adult pathological gamblers. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 62, 957–962.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Griffiths, M., & Barnes, A. (2007). Internet gambling: An online empirical study among student gamblers. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 6, 194–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hing, N., Cherney, L., Blaszczynski, A., Gainsbury, S. M., & Lubman, D. I. (2014a). Do advertising and promotions for online gambling increase gambling consumption? An exploratory study. International Gambling Studies, 14(3), 394–409. doi: 10.1080/14459795.2014.903989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hing, N., Gainsbury, S., Blaszczynski, A., Wood, R., Lubman, D., & Russell, A. (2014). Interactive gambling. Report commissioned by Gambling Research Australia. Centre for Gambling Education & Research, Southern Cross University.Google Scholar
  28. Hing, N., Vitartas, P., & Lamont, M. (2013). Gambling sponsorship of sport: An exploratory study of links with gambling attitudes and intentions. International Gambling Studies, 13(3), 281–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hing, N., Vitartas, P., Lamont, M., & Fink, E. (2014c). Adolescent exposure to gambling promotions during televised sport: An exploratory study of links with gambling intentions. International Gambling Studies, 14(3), 374–393. doi: 10.1080/14459795.2014.902489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Huang, J. H., & Boyer, R. (2007). Epidemiology of youth gambling problems in Canada: A national prevalence study. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry/La Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie, 52, 657–665.Google Scholar
  31. Jernigan, D., & O’Hara, J. (2004). Alcohol advertising and promotion. Reducing underage drinking: A collective responsibility (pp. 625–653). Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  32. King, D., Delfabbro, P., & Griffiths, M. (2010). The convergence of gambling and digital media: Implications for gambling in young people. Journal of Gambling Studies, 26(2), 175–187.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Korn, D. A., Hurson, T., & Reynolds, J. (2005). Commercial gambling advertising: Possible impact on youth knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behavioural intentions: Final report. Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre, Ontario, Canada.Google Scholar
  34. Lamont, M., Hing, N., & Gainsbury, S. (2011). Gambling on sport sponsorship: A conceptual framework for research and regulatory review. Sport Management Review, 14(3), 246–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lauchlan, S. (2013, September 2). Paddy power spreads bet on social, mobile and retail. Diginomica. Retrieved from
  36. Lee, H. S., Lemanski, J. L., & Jun, J. W. (2008). Role of gambling media exposure in influencing trajectories among college students. Journal of Gambling Studies, 24(1), 25–37.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Livingstone, S., Haddon, L., Gorzig, A., & Olafsson, K. (2011). Final report: EU kids online II. London: London School of Economics & Political Science.Google Scholar
  38. Mart, S. M. (2011). Alcohol marketing in the 21st century: New methods, old problems. Substance Use and Misuse, 46, 889–892.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Martin, I. M., Kamins, M. A., Pirouz, D. M., Davis, S. W., Haws, K. L., Mirabito, A. M., et al. (2013). On the road to addiction: The facilitative and preventive roles of marketing cues. Journal of Business Research, 66(8), 1219–1226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McMullan, J. L. (2011). Submission to the joint select committee on gambling reform inquiry into interactive gambling. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from
  41. McMullan, J. L., & Kervin, M. (2012). Selling Internet gambling: Advertising, new media and the content of poker promotion. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 10(5), 622–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McMullan, J. L., & Miller, D. (2010). Advertising the “new fun-tier”: Selling casinos to consumers. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 8(1), 35–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Messerlian, C., & Derevensky, J. (2006). Social marketing campaigns for youth gambling prevention: Lessons learned from youth. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 4(4), 294–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Messerlian, C., Derevensky, J. L., & Gupta, R. (2005). Youth gambling: A public health perspective. Journal of Gambling Issues,. doi: 10.4309/jgi.2005.14.9.Google Scholar
  45. Monaghan, S., & Derevensky, J. (2008). An appraisal of the impact of the depiction of gambling in society on youth. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 6(4), 537–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Monaghan, S., Derevensky, J., & Sklar, A. (2009). Impact of gambling advertisements on children and adolescents: Policy recommendations to minimize harm. Journal of Gambling Issues, 22, 252–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Moore, S., & Ohtsuka, K. (1999). The prediction of gambling behavior and problem gambling from attitudes and perceived norms. Social Behavior and Personality, 27, 455–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nicholls, J. (2012). Everyday, everywhere: Alcohol marketing and social media—current trends. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 47, 486–493.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. QuBit. (2012). UK gambling benchmark white paper. QuBit. Retrieved from
  50. Raco, E. (2014, July 1). Aussie teens online. Australian Communications and Media Authority. Retrieved from
  51. Smith, L. A., & Foxcroft, D. R. (2009). The effect of alcohol advertising, marketing and portrayal on drinking behaviour in young people: Systematic review of prospective cohort studies. BMC Public Health, 9, 51.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Sparks, R. (1999). Youth awareness of tobacco sponsorship as a dimension of brand equity. Young Consumers: Insight and Ideas for Responsible Marketers, 1(3), 193–218.Google Scholar
  53. Volberg, R. A., Gupta, R., Griffiths, M. D., Ólason, D. T., & Delfabbro, P. (2010). An international perspective on youth gambling prevalence studies. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 22(1), 3–38.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. We Are Social Singapore. (2014, January 8). Social, digital and mobile around the world. Slideshare. Retrieved from
  55. Yellow Pages. (2013). Yellow social media report. Melbourne: Sensis.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sally M. Gainsbury
    • 1
  • Paul Delfabbro
    • 2
  • Daniel L. King
    • 2
  • Nerilee Hing
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Gambling Education and ResearchSouthern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations