With the expansion of sports betting that is underway here in the United States, the volume of gambling ads, shows and mentions in everyday life increase on what seems like a daily basis.
But is this a bad thing?
While admittedly not a comprehensive dive into the pros and cons, let’s take a look at a few valid reasons on both sides.
A Case for “Yes”
It doesn’t take a deep dive into headlines and stories on Google to find support for your case if you view increasing gambling ads and content as a bad idea. From Italy which has implemented a blanked ad ban to the UK in which operators are planning a voluntary whistle-to-whistle ban, there seems to be support for the idea that too many ads can be a bad thing for both the public and the industry.
Of particular concern is that there is no way to limit ads from being shown to kids or people that have a gambling addiction. We’ve come a long way in customizing ad experiences, but this is simply an unavoidable reality of mass market advertising.
Showing ads to these groups can cause problems, so we should limit the volume to limit their exposure.
In summary, I won’t argue with anyone that believes we should restrict gambling ads as there are plenty of concerns around overexposure.
A Case for “No”
Just as there is a strong case for “yes”, I believe an equally strong case can be made for voting “no”.
First, it’s a legal business and I’m not comfortable saying that an industry that we apply the “legal” stamp to should be restricted from promoting their product. This isn’t to say that the content of the ads should be truthful and avoid misleading claims, but simply that if you are able to legally provide a product or service that you should be able to promote it.
Additionally, the huge ad spend will provide revenue for media and creatives which will create jobs and stimulate other areas of the economy. All good things.
And finally, aren’t we being hypocritical if we villainize gambling ads while allowing other ads such as those for alcohol, sugary soft drinks, and video games? Each of these can cause equally devastating results in a % of the population and yet the ads continue on without anyone saying a word. So why target gambling?
I think all of these are strong cases for not restricting ads and show how complex the issue truly is to legislate and regulate.
A Third Approach
I always believe there is another approach. A solution that isn’t obvious at first, but that with a little digging or acceptance of uncomfortableness can be successful.
On this topic of gambling ads, I don’t see it as a good or bad. It simply is what it is and what matters most is how I respond to it.
As I’ve said many times, I’m not anti-gambling. Instead, I’m for the reduction of problem gambling and gambling harm.
That is why my approach is to use the volume of gambling ads as an opportunity to talk about gambling. What better cue than a gambling ad to share my life experiences or views on problem gambling and gambling harm than an ad? It provides me with an opportunity to expand the conversation with family and friends.
And I don’t fear the day my kids ask me about the gambling ads. That day already happened at our local grocery store where the Ohio Lottery machines are positioned by the checkout. My son’s eye was drawn to the bright lights and colors and he has asked me why we don’t put money in them.
At first, I avoided his questions. But one day, I decided to answer him directly. And it went great. I told him how the machines work and that we don’t put money in because while sometimes you might get back more than you put in, in the long-term you will lose.
And he got it. He understood the concept. I used his curiosity to help educate him on gambling. So, thank you Ohio Lottery for positioning your eye-catching machines in a place that my son was drawn to them.
Like most things in life, it all comes down to perspective and response. I accept that I have no control over the content that is placed into my life. However, I am in full control over how I respond.
I’m choosing to use gambling ads as an opportunity to reduce problem gambling and gambling harm. The more places the ads show up in my life, the more opportunities I will have to provide information to the people around me that allows them to either choose not to gamble, continue gambling responsibly, or ask me about getting help if they are struggling.
So, show me the ads!