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GambleAware calls for health warnings on gambling ads, as major research highlights need for improved safer gambling messaging

GambleAware calls for health warnings on gambling ads, as major research highlights need for improved safer gambling messaging

Newly published report by independent consortium of researchers and academics reviewed gambling industry safer gambling messaging and use of GambleAware logo on operator advertising

  • GambleAware-commissioned research of over 7,000 people finds current safer gambling messages in adverts inadequate at highlighting the harms associated with gambling. 
  • Findings prompt GambleAware to call for the removal of the industry's safer gambling slogan ‘Take Time To Think' in favour of more effective health warnings. 
  • With an estimated £1.5 billion annual gambling marketing spend, the charity urges industry and operators to prioritise public protection – especially for children and young people.

GambleAware, the leading commissioner of gambling harms prevention and treatment services in Great Britain, has called for enhanced evidence-based health warnings on gambling adverts. The call comes in response to findings published today from an independent research consortium, showing the need for clearer safer gambling messaging that highlights the risks associated with gambling. 

The research, based on a survey of over 7,000 people, has called into question the effectiveness of the widely used industry-led slogan ‘Take Time To Think’ (TTTT). The report revealed that the current slogan fails to land the jeopardy of gambling harms or signpost where people can get help.

Alexia Clifford, Chief Communications Officer for GambleAware, said: “Gambling harms are a serious public health issue, and it is vital that people are aware of the risks associated. Today’s landmark study underscores the need to replace the industry-led slogan ‘Take Time To Think’ with more compelling health warnings.

"We're also concerned about operators’ misuse of the GambleAware logo and the lack of clear signposting to support channels. We urge industry to take heed of the growing body of evidence highlighting the need for better safeguards and restrictions.”  

Findings from the study indicate replacing current industry marketing messages with three new health warnings, which were shown to be clearer, more impactful, and more memorable to both the public and people who gamble.

Emphasising addictiveness was shown to prompt behaviour change, with the strapline ‘Gambling can be addictive’ having greater cut-through (46% of people who gamble vs. 35% for TTTT) and prompting the most people setting the lowest deposit limit. The warning ‘Gambling comes at a cost’ was seen by people who gamble as more impactful and memorable, especially compared to TTTT (22% of people who gamble say this vs. 12% for TTTT). It effectively conveyed implications beyond financial harms. ‘Gambling can grip anyone’ also performed well across metrics. 

Dr Raffaello Rossi, a lecturer in marketing at Bristol University and co-author of the research, said: “In the absence of strict gambling marketing restrictions, it is absolutely vital that we see warnings on gambling advertising that highlight the addictive nature of gambling, paired with clear, unambiguous signposting for people to access support if needed. We need to see better regulation of gambling operators who are widely bombarding us with their ads.”

Additional findings showed that the inclusion of a clear and separate GambleAware health warning at the end of a 30-second gambling advert was more than twice as effective than Take Time To Think at showing people where to get support (72% vs. 30% agree). The analysis will form the basis of a new guidelines3 providing operators with clear guidance and recommendations on how to promote safer gambling and prevent harm.  

The latest report findings align with the recent Government response, which clearly set out the need for public health messaging to be integrated and reinforced to effectively reduce harm and have impact. They also follow recent research from GambleAware highlighting the role advertising plays in normalising gambling for children and young people, who described feeling their online world was “saturated” with betting promotions and gambling-like content.

Sam Starsmore, who has lived experience of gambling harm, said: "I've experienced first-hand the profound impact of gambling harm on every aspect of life – mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially. Sadly, there are potentially millions more people out there at risk of harm, and if they or a loved one are concerned about their gambling, they need to know where they can get help.

"Gambling operators spend millions on advertising, but there isn’t nearly enough regulation and signposting to support services has to be improved. Reflecting on my personal experiences, the safer gambling messages never had an impact in providing me with a platform or direction to seek the support I crucially needed. Change is needed and could help prevent so many people from more serious consequences further down the line.”

If you're concerned about your own gambling habits or those of someone you care about, you can find help through GambleAware. You can also reach out to the National Gambling Helpline at 0808 8020 133. It's available 24/7 and offers free, confidential advice, tools, and support.

Find more detail about the research on improving safer gambling messaging on operator advertising within the Executive Summary and Full Report


About the research  
•    This peer reviewed research was commissioned by GambleAware with qualitative research conducted by specialist communications agency The Outsiders and quantitative research conducted by global survey experts YouGov. The research was supported by expert consultants from the Behavioural Insights Team and the University of Bristol and was peer reviewed by a leading academic with subject matter expertise.  
•    Whilst GambleAware funded the research, the research was carried out independently. All findings and views expressed are those of the authors, and GambleAware did not determine or influence the results or findings. 
•    GambleAware looks forward to working with the Government to ensure recommendations from this research are implemented. These recommendations include mandating the gambling industry's adoption of evidence-based safer gambling messaging, removing the industry's current ownership of this critical tool in the prevention of gambling harms.

The research was conducted in three phases as outlined below:  
Phase 1: Background research 
•    Desk-based research looking at key materials relevant to this project (e.g. legal requirements of operators, current usage of the GambleAware brand on operator adverts, academic papers on the topic) 
•    Data synthesised from GambleAware’s Annual Brand Tracking online survey conducted by YouGov (among a sample of over 3,000 members of the GB public, fieldwork conducted between 27 Feb – 10 Mar 2023) 
Phase 2: Qualitative research 
•    The qualitative phase was conducted by The Outsiders via 1 hour online interviews between 27 Sept – 6 Oct 2023. Research was conducted with 53 people through small focus groups and in-depth interviews with a wide range of experiences from non-gamblers to those experiencing problems. 
Phase 3: Quantitative research 
•    The quantitative phase was an online survey conducted by YouGov (among a sample of over 7,000 members of the GB public, fieldwork conducted between 10 Nov – 22 Nov 2023). This included three studies: 
•    A randomised control trial to measure the impact of the current industry-led strapline (TTTT) alongside potential alternatives 
•    A conjoint analysis exploring the optimal positioning and design of the GambleAware logo and messaging 
•    A/B testing of the current industry-led video endframe (TTTT) compared to an alternative 

Take Time to Think 
Take Time to Think is a national campaign managed by the Betting and Gaming Council. The ‘Take Time to Think’ slogan is used in gambling adverts both online and on television, as well as in high-street arcades, betting shops and casinos and bingo halls. 

Operators’ guidelines
The guidelines, set to be released later in 2024, will recommend that the GambleAware logo should never be used in isolation, but always be accompanied by a clear signposting for support (such as ‘Worried? Search GambleAware’ or ‘GambleAware. Advice. Tools. Support’). This will have a positive impact on the likelihood for people to search for GambleAware and seek support if they are concerned about their risk of gambling harm, the research showed. 


Speech given by GambleAware CEO Zoë Osmond at the Westminster Media Forum on 13th May 2024 

Ensuring a safe transition to a statutory levy - priorities for beneficiaries, protecting the vulnerable, and improving messaging

Thank you for the opportunity to speak at today’s event. For those who don’t know of our work, GambleAware is an independent charity and currently the strategic commissioner of gambling harm prevention and treatment across Great Britain working to keep people safe from gambling harms.

We work closely with the Government, regulators, the statutory sector, the third sector and those with lived experience to deliver a coordinated whole system approach to gambling harms.

As part of our work, we commission the National Gambling Support Network (NGSN), a network of specialist third sector providers which offers free confidential support and treatment to tens of thousands of people a year. 

We also lead national public health behaviour change campaigns, commission workforce training programmes and education hubs to prevent gambling harm and run the GA website which has 4.7 million users each year providing access to free confidential, personalised support for people.  
Today I would like to touch on two key topics: 

Firstly, the criticality of ensuring a safe and smooth transition to the new commissioning system and with it, the imperative need to protect the existing construct. 

And secondly, improvements to the regulation of gambling operator advertising. As you may have seen, today we have published new independent research into safer gambling messaging on operator advertising and are calling for mandatory health warnings to be included.

But first, to the once in a lifetime change that is about to take place with the move to statutory funding and with it, the introduction of a new commissioning system based on RPT.  This is something that we have long been calling for, as a critical means to provide a sustainable, transparent and long-term approach that allows for further investment in the sector and greater protection for the individual.  

As we have often stated, gambling harms are a public health issue which can affect anyone. However, we know that it skews towards minoritised and disadvantaged groups in society, with gambling harms driven by inequalities and harmful operator practices. Those in the most deprived areas are almost three times more likely to experience gambling harms compared to the least deprived.

There is also a disproportionate impact on the youngest in our society, with one in five of those aged 18-24 who gamble experiencing gambling harm. This is four times the GB average pointing towards a generation that will go on to experience severe harms for much of their adult lives, negatively affecting their work life, relationships and mental health.

Then there are the millions who are affected by the harms arising with 6.5% equating to up to 3.6 million people across Great Britain.

Why do I cite these stats – simply because it imperative that those at risk of and those experiencing harm are not impacted by the momentous change that is about to unfold.  

To these individuals there should be no disruption of support and the in the long term, enhancement of it. 

A smooth and stable transition to the new system is vital and we will work with the NHS and government to ensure that this takes place against a clear timetable over the next 20 months. 

However, despite recognition on many sides for system stability, several complex factors are at play which continue to create uncertainty and negatively impact providers and individuals.  

Constant lobbying, highly inaccurate and damaging claims in the public domain are only serving to undermine and do untold damage particularly to those who have benefited from the system.  

Third sector services are vital in reaching deep into communities and building trust to look after individuals with diverse and often complex needs.  This provision working in collaboration with the NHS ensures a no wrong door approach. The NGSN is an effective network providing invaluable support and we urge that the new system builds on the current approach rather than replacing it.  

I was assured by Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s Mental Health Director that her approach is Adopt, Adapt and Transform. A mantra which I wholeheartedly support. 
We will work closely with the NHS to ensure that they Adopt before they Adapt and look forward to Transformation. There is an opportunity to enhance the service to meet changing and increasing demand. 

For example, this means more of a focus on prevention and early-interventions. By reducing the number of people needing to seek treatment later, this delivers better value for money for an already over-burdened health system and more importantly produces better outcomes for those experience harms and those around them.

It is critical that there is parity of esteem between Prevention and Treatment within the new levy system, with funding allocations giving appropriate weighting to prevention. We hope these calls will be recognised by the government in the final proposals.  

So, in this, the last year of voluntary funding I hope that operators will continue to honour their financial commitments.  

Despite this source of funding, GambleAware is robustly independent from the industry and our work is evidence based.   Our only intent now is to ensure there is no system degradation in the last year of the current construct.  

I have spoken about the vital role of prevention. I now want to move onto discuss a central tenant of this: effective health messaging in operator advertising. Estimates from 2018 show that the gambling industry spend around £1.5bn on marketing each year. Much of this positions gambling as 'fun, exciting and harmless’, rather than something that can (and does for millions of people) lead to significant harm. 
Exposure to this is particularly concerning for children and young people and as recent research highlighted, it is startling to see the saturation of gambling-like content into the everyday activities of our young people. 

The lack of greater regulation on gambling advertising and marketing by the Government is a missed opportunity. We would emphasise the need for further action in this area, but alongside this there are opportunities to more effectively communicate the potential harm and more clearly signpost people to advice and support. 

We were pleased with the Government’s decision in the Gambling White Paper that ownership of regulations for safer gambling messaging should not sit with industry. Research has shown that industry-produced messages such as “When The Fun Stops Stop” and more recently “Take Time To Think” at their best lack effectiveness, and at their worst encourage gambling. 

Similarly, messages such as “gamble responsibly” place all the responsibility on the individual who gambles, implying those who experience harm have been irresponsible and as such are to blame. This stigmatizes those who experience harms, preventing them from opening up to their loved ones and seeking support. 

There is much to be learned from other countries in this area, with the government in Australia already taking action to mandate evidence-led harm reduction messages for usage on gambling adverts. Such movements are also in process within Europe, with key academics in Belgium and the Netherlands finding better alternatives to industry-led slogans. 

There are also learnings from our national campaigns aiming to prevent harm, something we have been doing for over five years. Our latest campaign aims to reduce stigma. Independent evaluation found that 93% campaign recognisers in the target audience took action as a result of the campaign. The campaign also saw real-world measures of behaviour change, such as an increase of 43% in users to our website and over 8,000 contacts supported by the National Gambling Helpline.

To build on these international developments and our own learnings, GambleAware commissioned research from an independent consortium of researchers and academics to optimise safer gambling messaging. The final stage included a randomised control trial of over 7,000 adults in Great Britain. 
One key finding is that the current industry-led slogan, ‘Take Time To Think’, was the one that resonated least and did not lead to self-appraisal. Researchers concluded that this message does not give people a reason to change their behaviour.

In particular, it failed to land the jeopardy of gambling harms, with stronger alternatives including ‘Gambling comes at a cost’, ‘Gambling can be addictive’ and ‘Gambling can grip anyone’. These were found to be significantly better than ‘Take Time To Think’ on a range of metrics, such as cut-through, memorability and importantly behaviour such as setting a deposit limit. 

As a result of this evidence we are recommending the use of these three new health warnings to replace the current messaging.

In addition, findings indicated that the GambleAware logo on operator adverts does not get noticed to achieve cut through, and lacks information on what GambleAware provides. This reduces the likelihood of someone reaching out for support. 

At present, GambleAware has no say over how its logo is used on gambling adverts with guidance produced by the IGRG. 

As such, we are recommending that the GambleAware logo should be more clearly positioned, and accompanied by a short message to demonstrate its role and signpost more effectively. 
Based on this research, GambleAware will be publishing guidelines for industry on how their advertising should be updated to better communicate the risks from gambling and clearly signpost to support. As an immediate step we are calling for the IGRG’s Socially Responsible Advertising Code to be updated to reflect our recommendations.

Longer term we hope this research will make a major contribution to the work of Safer Gambling Messaging Working Group, led by the government.

I would like to close by reiterating that the coming months bring with them the opportunity to transform the gambling harms landscape for the better. We see three elements as key to this:

  1. Firstly, continued investment into the system during the transition period. We cannot witness system degradation and negative impact on service users in our efforts to move to a new approach.
  2. Secondly, system transformation must be grounded in the strong foundations of the gambling harms system, which has helped many thousands of people at all stages of gambling harms, whether from their own gambling or someone else’s. The experience and capacity of the third sector must not be overlooked. 
  3. Finally, for the government to go further in regulating gambling advertising and mandating health warnings on all gambling advertising.

Thank you. With my remaining time I’d be happy to answer any questions.  

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