A recent study, funded by the Australian Research Council, discovered that children as young as 12 are expressing concerns about the impact of celebrity endorsements on promoting gambling as safe, attractive, and fun. This study, conducted by researchers from Deakin, Wollongong, and Curtin universities, found that strict advertising restrictions are necessary to protect the next generation from potential gambling harm.
The research involved interviews with 64 children from New South Wales and Victoria, who revealed that influencers, including celebrities like former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, were believed to make gambling more appealing to young audiences. The children noted that influencers on social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok hold significant sway over their peers.
Many of the participating youth were aware of the difference between advertisements and reality, but expressed concerns regarding the effects of gambling endorsements on their peers. Some felt that certain ads created the impression that gambling could lead to an improved lifestyle or appearance, potentially causing individuals to try mimicking them.
The study also revealed that while most children displayed some wariness regarding gambling, some admitted that their favorite celebrities could influence their decisions. One 12-year-old boy stated that if their favorite idol, YouTuber, Instagrammer, or TikToker were gambling, it would be a compelling enough reason to try.
In light of these findings, the researchers emphasized the need for comprehensive advertising restrictions to protect young people from the potential harms associated with gambling. They urged the federal government to take the concerns raised by the children seriously and consider implementing necessary measures. These observations coincide with the rising gambling addiction rates in the country, highlighting the growing issue.
Dr. Hannah Pitt, one of the study authors from Deakin University, highlighted the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements among younger audiences and the need to address the portrayal of gambling in a more balanced manner, showing both positives and potential harms. However, she also noted that implementing such measures requires strong political will, which Australia often finds lacking.
Professor Samantha Thomas, another study author, emphasized the skepticism among young people regarding government action due to the perceived political influence of the gambling industry. She also mentioned recent revelations regarding private discussions between the government and vested interest groups regarding the fate of gambling advertising bans, casting further doubt on Australia’s ability to push through with much-needed reforms.