By Josh Smith, Elliot Jones and Agnes Nairn

Over a quarter of those engaging with esports betting tweets are children under the age of 16, according to Biddable Youth, a new report by Demos and the Department of Management at The University of Bristol. The report suggests esports gambling may be as attractive to children as the computer games themselves.

Conventional bookmakers are now offering esports odds in response to the growing popularity of professional competitive playing of computer games, as illustrated by the first ever Fortnite World Cup in America which had a $30 million prize fund.

This new research reveals 28% of those retweeting or replying to esports betting tweets in the UK are children under 16. This is over five times the amount responding to traditional bookmakers (5%). The figure rises to a staggering 45% for esports worldwide.

The report, which explores this new field of gambling online, analysed over 888,000 betting-related tweets over a period of nine months in 2018. Analysis shows 74% of esports tweets and 68% of traditional sports tweets appeared not to comply with advertising regulations in some way – for example, presenting gambling as an income source or encouraging gambling at unsociable times.

Showing a person under 25 in a gambling advert is against regulations – but as most professional esports players are in this age bracket the rules are flouted again and again.

Parents and teachers are likely to be completely unaware of gambling advertising on social media as, through the use of cryptocurrencies, children may be able to place bets without access to a bank account.

In order to tackle these problems, the report is calling for technology companies to make better use of age verification tools and adtech to screen out children from gambling ads, and for regulators to both continue to pursue those breaking the rules and consider tightening regulations.

The report’s further recommendations include: 

  • Technology companies and advertisers working together to make embedding terms and conditions in messaging seamless
  • A free, searchable database of gambling advertising on platforms, provided by technology companies
  • More visible and frequent references to risk and age restrictions within advertising content included by advertisers
  • A closer look at what type of advertising images, features, themes and techniques are drawing children to esports betting

Read the full report here.

Read the policy briefing here.