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COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING AND REMOTE GAMBLING: MESSAGES OF MASS PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS FOR RESPONSIBLE ADVERTISING. John L. McMullan, PhD Department of Sociology and Criminology Saint Mary's University Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada.

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COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING AND REMOTE GAMBLING: MESSAGES OF MASS PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS FOR RESPONSIBLE ADVERTISING

John L. McMullan, PhD

Department of Sociology and

Criminology

Saint Mary's University

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Canada

Responsible Gaming Academy

Vienna, Austria

May 5, 2009


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“Advertising can be seen PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS to shape and reflect reality…..any advertisement might be apprehended in terms of its dramatic shape, metaphoric content, and social context, as an example of the cultural order” (Sherry, 1987).“The consumer is never absent from advertising agency strategy…..consumer experience is supported by a complex social map which details how a product will be used, how it will fit into, shape and alter the lifestyle of the prospective consumer (Myers, 1983). “Youth culture will no longer be rushing to purchase what is ‘new’ ……within today’s technological, multiple supermall society, but instead what is ‘meaningful’. In other words, they’ll be looking for products that have ‘soul’” (Lopiano-Misdem & DeLuca, 1997:14).


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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS Delthia Miller, M.A., Research AssociateAunshul Rege, M.A., Research AssistantNova Scotia Gaming Corporation, FunderSaint Mary's University, Course Stipend Release


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INTRODUCTION PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • This presentation examines the world of remote gambling advertising involving primarily off-shore gambling sites.

  • The perspective I take is that advertising is a cultural system of communication.

  • I explore the following questions in this presentation:

    • How do remote T.V. gambling ads persuade?

    • What master messages do they convey?

    • What are the cultural referents that shape online gambling ads on television?

    • What concerns do off-shore gambling advertisements evoke or raise for responsible gambling with regard to youthful consumers?

    • What directions should responsible gambling advertising consider in the future to mitigate harm on adolescents?

  • Repetition

  • Acting and staging

  • Making connections to wider social worlds –

  • entertainment, sports, film, youthful lifestyles, etc

  • Affirmation of values

  • Selling needs, desires and status

  • Promoting interaction between senders and recorders – role-taking, in-joking, satirical competition, etc

  • Stylization


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METHODS PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • To explore these questions I devised a study that looked at remote gambling ads that played on eleven broadcast networks from January 2007 to July 2007 in Canada.

  • I analyzed commercials on 461 television programs that resulted in a convenience sample of 64 distinct gambling ads that played for 509 hours of recorded TV time.

  • Each gambling ad was coded for content including placement time, corporate advertiser, type of gambling product, target audience, use of camera positions, pace of ads, use of sound, color text and taglines in the ads.

  • Most importantly, each ad was also coded for “messages of mass persuasion”, including responsible gambling messages.


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FINDINGS: PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS Advertisers, Intended Audiences and Persuasion Techniques

  • Forty-four percent of all TV programs played gambling ads, averaging 3 ads per program, lasting 30 seconds per ad in length.

  • Gambling programs and sports shows accounted for 63.6% of all gambling ad placements.

  • The type of gambling product most frequently advertised was online poker (72%).

  • The two most frequent advertisers were Full Tilt (30%) and Poker Stars (14%).

  • The majority of ads aired between 8 p.m. and midnight (40%), but one third aired in daytime and early evening slots between noon and 8 p.m.


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FINDINGS: PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS Advertisers, Intended Audiences and Persuasion Techniques (ctd.)

  • Young adults between the ages of 19-30 were targeted in about 2 out of every 3 ads.

  • Males were targeted in about 3 out of every 4 ads; less than 10% of ads were aimed at women.

  • The visual frames, which averaged 15 per ad, typically dramatized close-up camera shots evoking images of gambling that were emotional, exciting, gainful, seductive, studious and competitive.


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FINDINGS: PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS Advertisers, Intended Audiences and Persuasion Techniques (ctd.)

  • The pace of the ads were evenly divided; fast-paced to specify the thrill of play and the anticipation of winning and slow-paced to signify the cognitive and strategic nature of card based gambling.

  • About one half of the ads used bright colors and graphic displays to set and maintain mood and meaning for their products (i.e. winning, sexuality, appeals to loyalty, etc.) and about one third of the ads featured black and gray colors to convey the apparent suspense, mystery and seriousness of table play.


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FINDINGS: PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS Messages of Mass Persuasion

  • Exaggerating skill over luck (53%) [i.e. Horseshoe ad].

  • Message was

    • gambling was predictable, luck was insignificant in the gaming equation,

    • Bad luck will not prevail,

    • Playing longer will change the odds favoring the player,

  • Anyone can become a pro and control the outcomes of gambling.


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FINDINGS: PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS Messages of Mass Persuasion (ctd.)

  • Normalizing the gambling experience (50%) [i.e. cursing ad] Message was

    • Gambling was routine and common rather than an occasional leisure or entertainment event.

    • Gambling as a consumer activity was much like buying groceries rather than going to the movies. It was an everyday routine.

    • Gambling was a 24/7 activity, easily purchased, and consumed from everywhere – at night, on weekends, during lunch hours at work.

    • Gambling was eternally reoccurring in transnational and multicultural contexts.

  • Availability and participation were repetitively promoted.


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FINDINGS: PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS Messages of Mass Persuasion (ctd.)

  • Celebrating Wins, Winning and Winners (37%) [i.e. Costa Rica ad] Message was

    • Online gambling was a source of material gain.

    • Subtle approach emphasized the “dream of winning it all” fantasizing monetary success as a wishful event leading to personal riches.

    • Direct approach used prizes and cash to induce participation and highlight availability of play.

    • Loud audible voiceovers and large bold flashing textual taglines promised viewers they could “win $2,000 in cash and prizes” or be among “ten Canadians who will win millions of dollars in cash and prizes”.

    • The appeal was to consumer’s altruistic instincts (“share the dream”), their self-interest (“it could be you”), and the certainty that they had nothing to lose (“everyone is a winner”).

  • Messages played on impulsivity and encouraged arousal and excitement through winning and winners (such as successful celebrities) while not mentioning the large numbers of players who were more likely losing.


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FINDINGS: PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS Messages of Mass Persuasion (ctd.)

  • Overemphasizing the positive life-changing force of gambling that could change people’s social status (42%) [i.e. Playing for Team Canada ad]. Message was

    • Poker and blackjack could redefine personal and social identity,

    • Playing these games could “make you over” and turn you into a popular, high net worth, attractive person if you went “All In” and gambled.

  • These messages used irony, role identification and turn-taking “win a round of golf with a hockey great”. “you could become the next world champion” to signify elevated social status as a result of rubbing shoulders with cultural icons and to emphasize the possibility of forming new positive lifestyles and social networks emanating from internet gambling.


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FINDINGS: PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS Messages of Mass Persuasion (ctd.)

  • Encouraging escapism (27%) [i.e. Boardroom versus Poker table]. Messages proclaimed:

    • Gambling offered a reprieve from the everyday world of work, family and responsibility.

    • Poker, blackjack and casino play were “fast and easy” alternatives to employment

    • “No worker training required”, only “passion, grit and knowledge” needed, just “fast track” your play and revel in the rituals of gallantry that card and casino games supply.

    • Wagering in virtual environments removed people from the subordination of others,

    • Imagine a digital experience where freedom, fame and easily earned fortune predominated over the banal work world filled with conflict, stress and uncertainty.

  • Rather ironically, the fateful encounters of gambling online were represented as a better risk for success than working for a living.


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SPORTS AS CULTURAL REFERENTS PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • Advertising is dependent for its effectiveness upon a constant circulation of cultural norms and values which it appropriates from society at large [i.e. youth culture for tobacco products, drug culture for designer drinks to name two].

  • In the case of remote gambling ads promoting offshore sites, “sport culture” was used to try and sell e-gambling to consumers, and much more so than lottery or casino advertising.


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SPORTS AS CULTURAL REFERENTS (ctd). PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • Presenting internet poker and blackjack as if they were sporting activities in their own right by: (a) emphasizing skill and talent, heralding heroes, and using sport-related terms (i.e. marathons, classics, legends world series, etc.), (b) hosting these gambling programs on sport channels and (c) deploying sport communication forms (i.e. play by play announcers, action replays, elimination rounds, player interviews, expert commentators, end of game analysis, etc.) to pitch the products.

  • Using actual sports events or broadcasts of such events to promote online gambling at offshore venues [i.e. poster campaigns in bars during high peak events, running billboard ads during college sports events, using models to market products in pre game events].

  • Using gambling programs to direct their audiences to view upcoming sport programs such as hockey games, baseball events, soccer qualifiers and football matches on their commercial time slots.


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SPORTS AS CULTURAL REFERENTS (ctd). PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • Mobilizing an emergent sport-related referent system as part of actual advertising content by deploying (a) the images and signs of sport i.e. footballs, hockey pucks, goal lines, goal posts, (b) the sounds of sports i.e. shouts of players, roar of spectators and (c) the places of sport i.e. arenas, stadiums, and golf courses – to associate winning at gambling with winning at sports and to popularize internet gambling by connecting it to well established culturally approved users, uses and ideals. Playing at the virtual tables was like playing at the big games on grass!!


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SPORTS AS CULTURAL REFERENTS (ctd). PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • Directly sponsoring internet gambling products as worthy providers for sport events proper such as rodeos, cricket and tennis matches, arena football league teams, basketball teams and prize fights, or directly sponsoring sports figures – race car drivers, professional volleyball players, hockey icons, (Mat Sundin) etc., and mobilizing sport celebrities to form their own T.V. tournaments to either play for worthy causes offered by e-gambling providers or to offer their legendary status as personal prizes for worthwhile winners.

  • The “sportification” of gambling + the “gamblification” of sport = the myth of gambling as sport which encourages consumers to believe that gambling and sports co-exist naturally and which fosters dependency of the world of sport on gambling revenues.


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CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

The stylization, messaging and cultural referencing of offshore gambling advertisements raises several focal concerns for a responsible gambling agenda, especially as they effect youth.

  • Responsible Gambling messages were absent in 75% of the remote gambling ads.

  • In the 25% of the ads containing Responsible Gambling Messages, they typically took the form of age advisories, located at the bottom of the screen in small barely visible lettering, that played for only a second or two. 

  • Only 2 of the 64 ads offered odds of winning information and none provided cautionary warnings related to risk or harm. 

  • Youth and young adults were a constant bye-catch of much remote advertising even though they were not technically targeted. This is worrisome because 63% to 82% of minors in Europe and North America now gamble; 10% to 15% are at risk for developing gambling problems and 4% to 7% exhibit pathological gambling patterns leading to other maladaptive behaviour such as substance abuse, delinquency and crime and suicidal ideation.


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CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING (ctd.) PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • Almost two-thirds of the ads resorted to professional player celebrities to help sell gambling products and add credibility to gambling brands. In addition, popular celebrities, entertainers and sport figures were deployed to make messages more believable, enhance message recall, improve brand recognition and create positive attitudes about internet gambling that research shows appeals to young people and encourages them to engage in gambling online.


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CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING (ctd.) PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • The advertising of internet gambling targets “money” sites as well as “practice sites”. Advertising the latter is of concern because the involvement of youth in online gambling appears to be increasing with over half of those surveyed in prevalence studies reporting play on “practice” sites, and with research showing that such sites have over-inflated payout rates, have been associated with recruiting young gamblers online, and have been identified with fostering future gambling problems or compounding existing ones.


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CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING (ctd.) PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • The “sportification” of gambling and the “gamblification” of sports is also particularly troubling because internet corporate sponsorship of sports in the form of events, teams, club shirts, hats, shorts, sneakers, posters, games, computer equipment etc., is very appealing to youth, induces them to form brand connections between gambling and sports early on in life, poses a direct risk to them at a developmental age that makes them unduly susceptible to influence and persuasion, and exacerbates the likelihood of them developing problem gambling behaviours during their teenage years.


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CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING (ctd.) PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • The content of the television ads reinforced factors that research has shown contributes to excessive at risk gambling, especially among adolescents. 

    • the association between winning and continuous play [“but there’s always another hand”; “if you practice enough you can become like Joe Hasham”]

    • the association between impulse buying and loss of control over rational thinking [“Play for Team Canada…..Your country needs you”.]

    • the association between overconfidence in skill and the propensity to play longer and chase losses [“to heck with luck, this game is about skill”; “luck can’t explain why final tables have so many familiar faces”]

    • the association between excitement, the pursuit of sensation, and the development or maintenance of dissociative experiences [“we play to bluff; to bamboozle, beat and beguile; to dupe and delude; to suck in, sabotage, trap and trick; to hook and hoax; to fake, feign, and fool and do it all against the best”]


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CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING (ctd.) PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • the association between myth making, faulty thinking and the real statistical probabilities of economic success and social mobility from gambling [“you could be the next world champion of poker”; “click to enter for a chance to be Canada’s next poker champ”; “you can be an aspiring poker star”]

  • In sum, there are serious concerns associated with remote gambling ads that indicate the absence of accurate information about the products, misleading images, sounds, and statements about the effects of gambling, unbalanced portrayals of the products benefits and risks, and dubious inducements to gamble that stretch the credibility of the definitions of decent, honest and truthful.


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GUIDELINES FOR RESPONSIBLE ADVERTISING PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • The problems associated with youth gambling and advertising are increasingly being studied and monitored. Like the impact of advertising in the fields of alcohol and tobacco there are now demands for bans, codes of practice, tighter restrictions, and more responsible regulatory frameworks to ensure that ads for gambling products do not unduly influence youth. Based on the empirical evidence from this study and the growing body of literature related to this topic, the following guidelines are recommended to reduce the impact of this form of advertising on youth.

  • Advertisements for gambling products must contain accurate information regarding the chances of winning and visible warning statements that clearly indicate the potential risks associated with gambling too much.


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GUIDELINES FOR RESPONSIBLE ADVERTISING (ctd.) PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • Gambling advertisements must be especially sensitive to youth and should not include or portray individuals who appear to be under the age of 25, so as to prevent youth from relating to models, actors or celebrities who dramatize gambling or glamorize winning.

  • Youth oriented graphics, sounds, and thematic content suggesting that gambling is “cool”, “hot” or “in” should not be used to advertise, promote or market gambling products.

  • Gambling advertisements should not be allowed to include images, sounds or texts that promote excessive skill, spending or identity transformation.

  • Gambling advertisements should only be permitted for viewing during timeslots and on programs where they cannot normally be accessed by adolescents or children.


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GUIDELINES FOR RESPONSIBLE ADVERTISING (ctd.) PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • Gambling advertisements should restrict product endorsements from celebrities who are likely to appeal to minors and increase the propensity of youth gambling recruitment and participation.

  • Internet gambling companies that generate their revenue from gambling should not be allowed to advertise their names or products through the sponsorship of sport teams, events or figures and should be encouraged to contribute to a “hands off” independent government board that would oversee sponsorship funds to sporting teams and worthy charities on behalf of the gambling provider but without corporate naming rights, branding or logos.


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GUIDELINES FOR RESPONSIBLE ADVERTISING (ctd.) PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS

  • Advertising for practice websites on television should be subject to the same regulations for advertising on real money sites and practice sites should be better regulated and monitored so that they do not contain promotional materials and direct links to online money sites and do not offer preferential payouts as inducements for young people to gamble.

  • To create a “safety net” between government regulatory and revenue agencies and to ensure that gambling ads do not adversely impact youth, the regulations governing gambling advertisements should be made mandatory, should be developed by gambling product, should be written in a clear language that is enforceable by law and should be reviewed and evaluated continually by an independent body that is distinct from that involved in generating revenue from gambling.


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THANK YOU. PERSUASION, CONCERNS FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING AND DIRECTIONS QUESTIONS?

John L. McMullan, PhD

Department of Sociology and Criminology

Saint Mary's University

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Canada

Responsible Gaming Academy

Vienna, Austria

May 5, 2009


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