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The rise of esports and gambling interaction online

Thu, Aug 22, 7:44am by Staff Writer

More than one quarter of people engaging with esports betting tweets are children under the age of 16, according to a new report that suggests esports gambling may be as attractive to children as computer games themselves.

Mirage News reports that conventional bookmakers are now offering esports odds in response to the growing popularity of professional competitive playing of computer games, as illustrated by the first ever Fortnite World Cup, which had a $30 million prize fund.

New research published by Demos and the Department of Management at the University of Bristol, reveals 28 per cent of those retweeting or replying to esports gambling tweets in the UK are children under 16.

This is more than five times the amount responding to traditional bookmakers (five per cent).

The figure rises to a staggering 45 per cent for esports worldwide.

The Biddable Youth report, which explores this new field of gambling online, analysed more than 888,000 betting-related tweets over a period of nine months in 2018.

Analysis shows 74 per cent of esports tweets and 68 per cent of traditional esports tweets appeared not to comply with advertising regulations in some way – for example, presenting gambling as an income source or encouraging gambling at unsociable times.

Showing a person under 25 in a gambling advert is against regulations – but as most professional esports players are in this age bracket, the rules are flouted time and time again.

Parents and teachers are likely to be completely unaware of gambling advertising on social media as though the use of cryptocurrencies, children may be able to place bets without access to a bank account.

In order to tackle these problems, the report is calling for technology companies to make better use of age verification tools and adtech to screen out children from gambling ads, and for regulators to both continue to pursue those breaking the rules and consider tightening regulations.

The report had a number of other recommendations including that technology companies and advertisers work together to make embedding terms and conditions in messaging seamless and a closer look at what type of advertising images, features, themes and techniques are drawing children to esports betting.

Surprise at the number of children responding to betting content

Professor Agnes Nairn, from the University of Bristol’s Department of Management and co-author of Biddable Youth said: “We were really surprised at the number of children actively engaging with esports gambling accounts. Yet with the massive growth in the esports industry, unless action is taken, we can only expect this figure to rise as sports and gambling seem to be inextricably linked.”

“Our in-depth analysis of the content of gambling advertising tweets leads us to believe that children’s esports gambling is currently under the radar in two ways: it’s online where parents won’t see it and it’s using clever marketing such as amusing GIFS, memes, pictures and funny stories to appeal to young people.”

Researcher in the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media and Biddable Youth co-author Josh Smith said: “this report explores a vital new field of gambling online, which encourages people to bet on the outcome of video games.”

“We found that high volumes of messages are produced to appeal particularly to children, with thousands of children in the UK following and respond to this content. This report also shows that advertising regulations are being regularly flouted by gambling advertisers online,” Mr Smith said.

Esports is the industry surrounding the professional playing of computer games.

Its market size was $906 million in 2018 and is forecasted to reach $1.65 billion by 2020.

Regular tournaments around the world feature individuals or multiplayer-teams dueling each other for prize pools of up to 24 million pounds.

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