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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Sally M. Gainsbury.

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Gainsbury, S.M., Delfabbro, P., King, D.L. et al. An Exploratory Study of Gambling Operators’ Use of Social Media and the Latent Messages Conveyed. J Gambl Stud 32, 125–141 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-015-9525-2

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Keywords

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