Associate Professor Samantha Thomas, Dr Hannah Pitt and Professor Mike Daube – Written evidence (GAM0097)


A/Prof Samantha Thomas

Samantha Thomas is Associate Professor of Public Health at Deakin University in Australia. She specialises in understanding the impact of gambling industry strategies, and government policies, on gambling related harm. She is most well known for her research examining the impact of gambling marketing on young people. Her research has been cited in the Australian Parliament, the United Kingdom House of Lords, and in an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court. She regularly comments to the national and international media on gambling related harm. From the 1st January 2020 she will take up the position of Professor of Public Health at Deakin University.


Dr Hannah Pitt

Hannah Pitt is an Associate Research Fellow at Deakin University in Australia. Her research has mostly focused on exploring the different factors normalising gambling within different at risk population groups including young people, women, older adults, and people with intellectual disability. Her PhD on sports betting advertising and young people, had significant impact on raising awareness about sports betting advertising amongst the community, influenced community education campaigns, and has contributed to evidence supporting regulatory changes to reduce gambling advertising during sport.


Emeritus Professor Mike Daube AO Hon DSci FPHAA FFPH

Mike Daube is Emeritus Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. His previous roles have included Director General of Health for Western Australia and Chair of the National Public Health Partnership. He has been a leader in public health policy and programs for nearly fifty years, originally in the UK, since 1984 in Australia and internationally, with a focus on tobacco, alcohol and more recently gambling research.  

1. The changing gambling environment and the normalisation of gambling.


1.1 The wagering environment in Australia is very similar to the environment in the United Kingdom. Online wagering is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on an almost unlimited range of sport and horse racing markets across the globe. Individuals in Australia and the United Kingdom can sit in their lounge rooms and bet on tens of thousands of sporting outcomes on sports such as the Rugby World Cup in Japan, American Basketball, Indonesian Soccer, Canadian Ice Hockey, and Gaelic Sports. British owned companies operate across the globe, with Ladbrokes, Bet365, and until recently, William Hill all established brand names in the Australian market. Gambling is now a high tech global industry with branded products specifically aimed to appeal to a range of different population subgroups. As a participant in one of our studies commented: “I can sit on the beach and punt on my phone.”


1.2 Alongside these new technologies have been marketing strategies which have aimed to normalise gambling as an activity that is embedded in everyday life. Similar to the strategies that have been observed for other products, such as tobacco, the aim is to ensure that gambling is available and accessible, is regularly engaged in, and is socially and culturally accepted. In 2018, our research team defined the normalisation of gambling as:


‘The interplay of socio-cultural, environmental, commercial and political processes which influence how different gambling activities and products are made available and accessible, encourage recent and regular use, and become a socially and culturally accepted part of everyday life for individuals, their families, and communities.’ [1]


1.3 Integral to the normalisation of gambling products is the way in which these products are marketed and promoted to different audience segments. There have been a number of research studies in Australia and the United Kingdom, alongside significant concern in both countries about the role of marketing in the normalisation of gambling for children. Community concern about the impact of gambling advertising during sport led UNICEF Australia, the leading organisation aimed at advocating for the rights of children, to urge the Australian government to tighten regulations associated with gambling advertising, stating ‘this policy issue has an undeniable and significant impact on children’ [2].


2. Gambling marketing and young people


2.1 Research in both Australia and the United Kingdom has demonstrated the impact of gambling marketing strategies on young people’s recall of and receptivity to gambling products and brands. Much of this research has been modelled on research from tobacco, which clearly demonstrated the impact of cigarette advertising on young people’s initiation and continuation of smoking. Tobacco research also demonstrated that brand recall and loyalty at a young age influenced young people’s brand preferences into adulthood. Key to this was consumer socialisation, or the process by which young people develop skills, knowledge, and attitudes, relevant to their functioning in the market place [3]. Young people’s consumer socialisation may be influenced by family members, peer groups, social agencies, and the media (including advertising and the promotion of products).


2.2 Research from Australia and the United Kingdom has demonstrated the impact of marketing on positively shaping young people’s gambling attitudes, their receptivity to gambling brands, and ultimately their intentions to gamble when they are older. Marketing plays a role in normalising gambling – that is, it plays a role in influencing young people to think this is an everyday activity that is associated with, for example, viewing and engaging in sport. While there is significantly more research on the impact of gambling marketing on young people in Australia, researchers in the United Kingdom have started to replicate these Australian studies, adapting them for local contexts. So far, the findings across these Australian and United Kingdom studies are very similar. This is perhaps unsurprising given the similarities in the alignment between gambling and sport in both Australia and the United Kingdom, and the number of bookmakers that operate in both countries (with very similar marketing strategies). The following provides a brief summary of some of the key findings from these studies.


2.3 Exposure


Research shows that young people are exposed to promotions for gambling in a range of different environments. The research shows that we can no longer assume that young people only see these promotions within commercial break advertising.



This research suggests that while many regulations have focused on television based commercial break advertising, we also need to recognise that young people recall seeing gambling advertising in a range of media and sporting environments.


2.4 Brand recall and awareness


Research from both Australia and the United Kingdom now consistently shows that young people have very clear recall of gambling brands – particularly if they are fans of sport. This recall starts from a very young age – as young as 8 years old in some studies. Brand recall and awareness is arguably the first building block in establishing brand loyalty.



2.5 Attitudes towards gambling and intentions to gamble


Importantly, it is inducement marketing that appears to significantly influence young people’s attitudes towards wagering, and in particular the risks associated with wagering.



3. What do children think should be done about gambling advertising?



4. Summary and ways forward.


4.1 There are many lessons that could be learned from the research with children both in Australia and the United Kingdom. Clearly there are similarities in the impact of gambling marketing on young people in both countries. Concerned about its impact on young people, politicians in Australia, Belgium and Italy have brought in restrictions, but the UK Government has been reluctant to act, preferring self-regulation, responsible gambling, and educational activities that aim to raise awareness of problem gambling.


4.2 While a ‘whistle to whistle’ ban on advertising has wide support, evidence from Australia would suggest that this type of ban does not go far enough in protecting young people from being exposed to gambling advertising. In early 2018, Australia implemented a ban on gambling advertising in live sport (up until an 8.30pm cut-off, with some exemptions for minor audience channels). Our research team spoke to children after this ban. Children still saw gambling advertising. They saw gambling advertising before and after sporting matches, and also saw gambling advertising outside of sporting programs, including on social media platforms. They also saw other forms of promotions for gambling, such as shirt sponsorship, gambling logos on hoardings, and embedded advertising on signage on the sports court or field. This is an important finding, given that there is no evidence to suggest gambling advertising outside of sport is any less influential than advertising within live sporting matches. As such, restricting all forms of promotions should be considered.


4.3 If we apply the principle of ‘logic based on parallel evidence’[14], the only way that we can significantly reduce young people’s exposure to gambling advertising is by applying the comprehensive approach has been applied in other public health initiatives. For example, a comprehensive approach in tobacco control in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world restricted not just tobacco advertising, but also promotions, and sponsorship. This is important given that Australian and British research has shown that gambling advertisements during commercial breaks are not the only, or even the most prevalent, form of marketing [15].


4.4 Some have suggested that an appropriate response is to engage in awareness raising campaigns or educational programs with young people or their parents. While these strategies may be well intentioned, there is limited evidence to support the effectiveness of these current education strategies. In order to be effective, research from other areas of public health shows that such educational strategies must be independent of industry influence, sustained and adequately funded, based on research evidence, and backed up by broader regulatory frameworks which restrict both  exposure and access to products, as well as significant restrictions on the marketing of these products. Research shows that children and parents are supportive of stricter regulation of gambling marketing, with many supportive of bans similar to those implemented for tobacco [16]. Young people are also aware of the purposes of gambling advertising, and that advertising has an impact on gambling attitudes and behaviours. A twelve year old in one of our recent studies stated:


It would be good if you could like stop the ads, because the ads are influencing a lot. . . I don’t think you would be able to stop betting, like in total. But if the ads go away, sports betting won’t get as much money, which means less people bet because less people actually think about it. - 12-year-old boy


These perspectives from children are powerful reminders of the role that government must play in protecting the health and wellbeing of children, and in preventing gambling related harm in future generations.



1. Thomas SL, Pitt H, Bestman A, Randle M, McCarthy S, Daube M. The determinants of gambling normalisation: causes, consequences and public health responses. Victoria, Australia: Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, 2018. Available from:

2. UNICEF. Inquiry into the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017. UNICEF, 2018. Available from:

3. Ward S. Consumer socialization. Journal of Consumer Research. 1974;1:1-14

4. Pitt H, Thomas SL, Bestman A, Stoneham M, Daube M. “It's just everywhere!” Children and parents discuss the marketing of sports wagering in Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2016;40(5):480-6

5. Nyemcsok C, Thomas SL, Bestman A, Pitt H, Daube M, Cassidy R. Young people’s recall and perceptions of gambling advertising and intentions to gamble on sport. Journal of Behavioral Addictions. 2018;7(4):1068-78.

6. Thomas SL, Bestman A, Pitt H, Cassidy R, McCarthy S, Nyemcsok C, Cowlishaw S, Daube M. Young people's awareness of the timing and placement of gambling advertising on traditional and social media platforms: A study of 11-16 years olds in Australia. Harm Reduction Journal. 2018;15:51.

7. Thomas SL, Pitt H, Bestman A, Randle M, Stoneham M, Daube M. Child and parent recall of gambling sponsorship in Australia. Victoria, Australia: Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, 2016. Available from:

8. Pitt H, Thomas SL, Bestman A, Daube M, Derevensky J. What do children observe and learn from televised sports betting advertisements? A qualitative study among Australian children. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2017;41(6):604-10

9. Bestman, A., Thomas, S.L, Randle, M & Thomas SD. 2015. Children’s implicit recall of junk food, alcohol and gambling sponsorship in Australian sport. BMC Public Health, 15:1022
10. Djohari, N., Weston, G., Cassidy, R. et al. Recall and awareness of gambling advertising and sponsorship in sport in the UK: a study of young people and adults

Harm Reduct J (2019) 16: 24.

11. Pitt H, Thomas SL, Bestman A. Initiation, influence, and impact: adolescents and parents discuss the marketing of gambling products during Australian sporting matches. BMC Public Health. 2016;16(1):967

12. Pitt H, Thomas SL, Bestman A, Daube M, Derevensky J. Factors that influence children’s gambling attitudes and consumption intentions: Lessons for gambling harm prevention research, policies and advocacy strategies. Harm Reduction Journal. 2017;14(11):1-12.


13. Thomas SL. Parents and adolescents discuss gambling advertising: A qualitative study. Victoria, Australia: Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, 2014.

14. McKinsey Global Institute. Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis. 2014 [cited 17.09.18].

15. Cassidy, Rebecca, and Niko Ovenden. 2017. “Frequency, Duration and Medium of Advertisements for Gambling and Other Risky Products in Commercial and Public Service Broadcasts of English Premier League Football.” SocArXiv. August 10. doi:10.31235/

16. David, J. Thomas, S. Pitt, H. Randle, M. Daube, M. 2019. Parent and child perceptions of gambling promotions in Australian sport. Health Promotion International, 2019, 1–11. doi: 10.1093/heapro/daz028


10 October 2019