How social media platforms can encourage more safer gambling

By iGBA Editorial Team

Social media marketing seems a given in almost any industry, but its restrictions bring complications for gambling affiliates and operators. Sharon McFarlane discovers if there’s more all parties could be doing to improve safer gambling on the platforms.

Social media has completely transformed our lives and the way in which modern brands and businesses operate. Gambling companies are no exception. Social media has created new opportunities to market new products and reach new players.

Whether an operator markets on social media directly or through an affiliate strategy, they can now reach huge audiences and target broad demographic groups all over the world. However, with these new-found powers comes a greater deal of responsibility. How can social media companies collaborate with affiliates and operators to push and promote safer gambling initiatives? Let’s find out.

The importance of safer gambling

Problem gambling is the biggest issue facing the industry today. It can harm players, erode trust among customers and has been the subject of much negative press. Regulations are tightening to reduce the rates of problem gambling, with operators and affiliates forced to adjust strategies to meet new standards.

"According to research, 0.4% of people in England identified as problem gamblers."

Understanding the scale of problem gambling is key if we want to tackle it. The more we know about the issue, the more effective the strategies we use to address it will be.

According to research conducted by the Gambling Commission, 0.4% of people in England identified as problem gamblers. In Scotland, this figure was also 0.4%. In Wales, 0.7% identified as problem gamblers.  We have just looked at the UK market in this instance to give you an idea of scale.

While these are low numbers, they still present a problem for gambling affiliates and operators. Regulatory bodies and activist groups have increasingly scrutinised the industry in recent years and demanded more stringent measures to protect this small but vulnerable minority.

Advertising on social media

Businesses now primarily use social media to market and advertise products. Whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram or X, these digital platforms are integral to modern marketing methods and advertising campaigns.

Gambling operators can use public social media profiles to reach and engage with customers. A company like Paddy Power is a prime example of social media marketing done right. The operator uses humour and cultural memes to engage with customers on a meaningful level, establishing and maintaining positive player-operator relationships.

Recently, we’ve seen an increase in operators partnering with affiliates and influencers. These social media influencers often have huge followings and can promote products in services in a more personal and relatable way, a highly effective approach.

Billions of people across the world use social media platforms, making them an attractive option for businesses of all kinds. Children and teenagers, particularly on channels such as TikTok and Snapchat, heavily use them as well. As a result, critics have criticised gambling advertising campaigns and called for a ban on the practice altogether.

"[Paddy Power] uses humour and cultural memes to engage with customers on a meaningful level"

Despite these criticisms, gambling companies advertise extensively on social media. A Gambling Commission study revealed that 87% of respondents reported seeing gambling advertising or sponsorship on these digital channels.

Given the reach and impressions these ads can generate, social media companies, gambling operators and affiliates have a responsibility to ensure they are promoting safer gambling initiatives at the same time. With 12.7% of social media users in the 13 – 19 age bracket, this becomes even more important.

Raising awareness

So, how can social media companies collaborate with operators and affiliates to promote responsible gambling? The first, and often most effective approach is by raising awareness.

Safer Gambling Week is an initiative that aims to raise awareness of responsible gambling and educate players. It is an annual event that sees thousands of gambling companies take part. The key aims of Safer Gambling Week are to teach players how to gamble in a safe way, educate them about available tools and services and highlight resources and support networks.

Social media companies should look to involve themselves with such initiatives. As the vehicle through which gambling advertisements are delivered to players, it’s vital that these social channels are equally involved in promoting responsible gambling.

Social platforms could place more emphasis on safer gambling content and perhaps run ads concurrently with gambling material, ensuring a two-pronged approach through which no gambling ads run without accompanying safer gambling content.

Additionally, parties involved with gambling advertising must understand the risks involved. By learning about how these advertisements can affect people, marketers and digital platforms can better tailor their approach to ensure they protect vulnerable players and promote safer gambling initiatives at all levels.

Age verification checks

The most serious criticism of social media-based gambling advertising is that it exposes underage users to the content. Social platforms have high volumes of young users, concentrated particularly on channels like TikTok and Instagram. If social media companies want to push safer gambling, this issue needs to be addressed.

"[Age limits] are by no means strictly enforced, and as a result, digital channels are flooded with underage users"

If we look at gambling affiliates on social media, work needs to be done to ensure that posts are not being seen by users under the age of 18. Last month, the UK government proposed new rules designed to address this, although exact details as to how this will work remain scant.

Most social platforms have age limits in place. However, these are by no means strictly enforced, and as a result, digital channels are flooded with underage users. Social media companies need to get a grip on this if they truly want to limit underage gambling ads and content exposure.

Displaying messages

Promoting safer gambling is all about education. If advertisements and marketing material are allowed to run with no thought to responsible gambling initiatives, vulnerable players will never be given the incentive or the means through which to seek out and access help.

One of the most effective ways social media companies can collaborate with gambling companies and affiliates is by requiring that safer gambling messaging is displayed on not just gambling gambling-related content, but across all kinds of content and on social media profiles.

Currently, operators and affiliates can post content such as memes and videos that do not require safer gambling messaging. While this content might not be directly related to a gambling product, it still helps raise awareness of gambling brands and services. Safe gambling messaging should be present on all kinds of content to maximise its impact.

When we consider just how many people social media-based gambling ads are reaching, it’s absolutely essential that we ensure safer gambling messaging is delivered at the same time. Currently, the Advertising Standards Authority stipulates that it is the responsibility of operators to ensure that affiliates are delivering this message. However, social media companies should also shoulder this responsibility and should work to promote safer gambling at all levels.


Gambling advertising is a huge industry that involves multiple parties. What this means is that ensuring these advertisements are safe will require a large-scale, collaborative effort from gambling companies, affiliates and social media companies themselves. Only through collaboration can safer gambling initiatives reach enough people to make a difference.


Sharon McFarlane

is managing director at Glasgow-based Digital Footprints, a digital marketing agency specialising in content marketing, social media, UX design, website design, branding and conversion rate optimisation.

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