Study shows gambling firms’ marketing has led to ‘gamblification’ of football

A University of Bath study conducted over two years has examined the impact of gambling firms’ increasing advertising, marketing and sponsorship of football. Author Dr Darragh McGee has defined an almost inextricable link between gambling and football the ‘gamblification’ of football and has warned of the ‘dire consequences’ of the ever-closer relationship.

A football pitch

The study claims that a generation has become hooked on gambling thanks to relentless adverts from gambling firms. © Pexels.

The study will not be published until the new year, but McGee has shared his initial findings exclusively with the Guardian. The research and study was funded by the British Academy.

McGee spent over two years with participants – two groups of football fans aged between 18-35 – to record their gambling habits.

The participants drew particular attention to how effective and relentless gambling companies’ marketing was. Specifically free bet offers were said to be a major issue, as it did not feel like losing real money.

Most participants had multiple accounts with different bookmakers, with one holding 40 different accounts. Most stated that they can’t watch a football match without placing multiple bets upon it.

McGee found that gambling to such extents was having serious effects on the lives of the participants. One individual explained that gambling had led to him dealing drugs to try and pay his gambling debts, as well as neglecting his daughter as he gambled online. Speaking about his findings, McGee said:

Far from being the knowledge-based, risk-free activity it is marketed as, the profound appeal of online sports gambling has had dire consequences for many young men. The study documented the unfolding stories of several young men whose everyday lives are punctuated by deepening social and financial precarity, high-interest payday loans and bank debt, mortgage defaults, family breakdown, and mental health struggles. Dr Darragh McGee, Lecturer University of Bath

Ultimately, McGee concluded that it was the incessant marketing from gambling firms that has forged the link between football and gambling, saying that marketing has caused people to become addicted to:

an accelerated sports culture in which the casual staking of money is an essential accompaniment to watching the game… A new generation of sports fans view gambling as vital to their enjoyment of sport.Dr Darragh McGee, Lecturer University of Bath

More than just an advertising ban required

McGee welcomes the recently proposed whistle-to-whistle advertising ban announced by the Remote Gambling Association. However, with the extreme marketing efforts on-going for many years already, he believes gambling and football are almost inextricably linked, and it would require huge efforts to reverse:

A generation of young people already view gambling as a normalised part of sport. Turning the tide will require stronger state regulation and a genuine commitment to redistributing a greater slice of the losses incurred by British gamblers to education and treatment for problem gambling. Educating the next generation about the dangers will be key.Dr Darragh McGee, Lecturer University of Bath

Interestingly among a group that gamble alongside watching football so much, many participants felt that gambling had ruined the sport for them. Many claimed that the rush of gambling had overtaken the excitement of watching the sport, especially among the younger people that McGee spoke with.

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