Psychology, peer pressure and influential exposure: Gambling regulators put their foot down

By Isabella Aslam

We exist in an age of a social media boom. Online marketing, influencers, Instagram; it’s hard to get away from an advertisement when Apple algorithms and digital data analyse one’s every move, probing smartphone users with that holiday you spoke about to your colleague the other week, or that shop you must go in because they do this ‘specific set of bright blue mugs.’ That’s odd, “What’s just popped up?” one hears you ask...Swipe. Click, (buys blue mugs).

New research has been published this week by the Gambling Commission, exploring the journeys and behaviorisms of young people and adults aged 16-30. Global insights agency, 2CV, conducted qualitative and quantitative methodology research techniques. This enabled the Commission to deliberate the views of the demographic succumbing to negative gambling outcomes through influence, lifestyle and indirect exposure.

This research follows the Commission’s wider overall research program; which aims to understand the gambling experiences of minors, adolescents and vulnerable adults. The key findings from 2CV – thus far – show that engagement with gambling or gambling style activities during childhood were common, where participation was ‘second hand’ and occurred in the presence of others as opposed to actual underage gambling.

This type of exposure to positive and negative extremes of gambling, like winning big or losing hard, can be mentally detrimental when witnessed at an early age. How can one ‘go hard or go home’ when living and surrounded in a certain environment. There’s not much option for a minor than to suck it up, and no other option but to soak it up.

One cannot be one's authentic self, where individuals act inauthentically by yielding to the external pressures of a society Jean-Paul Satre

In some cases, it can lead to harmful gambling behaviour and even addiction in later (adult) life. This is not dissimilar to the cases of children suffering from Second Hand Smoke (SHS). A 2021 study on the association between parents’ smoking status and tobacco exposure in school-age children showed a figure of 250 carcinogens and toxic chemicals consumed in the subjection of SHS. Approximately 603,000 individuals, including children, die each year from SHS exposure, adding 1.0% to the overall mortality rate.

Second-hand exposure from any vice deemed potentially harmful has a responsibility in becoming influential to a young person. The Commission’s research also showed that friends and family played a huge part in the influence of shaping forms of gambling behaviour in children.

The Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) has equally been cracking down on research in aims to illuminate harmful gambling advertisements, to children and young adults online. So it seems like this is a problem being dealt with compassionately and with importance from many regulatory companies and decision makers.

The ASA gathered data by use of online Avatars split into six uniquely aged categories, these were: six to seven-year-olds, eight to 12-year-olds, neutral profiles, adults and shared profiles, visiting 250 web pages assessing whether age-restricted ads were being targeted away from children in online media.

The comparisons to harmful advertisements and marketing – subjected to children through the internet or television – still play a lesser role in the overall influence of young people's tendency to gamble than the pressures of friends and family.

Not easily influenced?

The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ pays homage to the academic disquisitions that establish a person as more than likely to be the product of their environment, and the mean average of their five surrounding friends. Think; Philosopher Martin Heidegger’s theology of ‘dasein’ or more commonly known as ‘das man or ‘the-they’, which means quite literally ‘being there;’ whereby a human being cannot be taken into account as authentic when existent in the middle of a world among other things.

A human being cannot be taken into account as authentic when existent in the middle of a world among other things Martin Heidegger

Same goes with Jean-Paul Satre’s notions of ‘Mauvaise foi’ or in clearer terms, ‘bad faith,’ where one cannot be one's authentic self, where individuals act inauthentically by yielding to the external pressures of a society.

A young person's behavioural habits can fluctuate due to an imbalance and a lessened structure at a young age. Young people experiencing vulnerability toward gambling additions were said to be ones with too much of an independent lifestyle, bowing to changes or a vast number of responsibilities – or lack thereof.

So what are the steps in protecting young people and is it down to parents/guardians, and not the sole responsibility of the Gambling Commission, ASA and like-minded authorities?

Safeguarding children and vulnerable people is at the forefront of most gambling regulatory organisations. The Commission’s core of work lies in keeping young people from harm or from developing harmful behaviours in the future. Research states that the objective in guarding young people from negative gambling outcomes means policy should be focused on the education of children, parents and learning environments.

Tim Miller, Executive Director of the Gambling Commission, said: “Protecting consumers is at the heart of everything we do, and it is important we understand the ways in which children and young people gain exposure to gambling, the products they are playing, and what factors influence their relationship with gambling.”

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