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If you use TikTok in Australia, you may have already viewed ads from Sportsbet. Now, the company has expanded the trial to include bets from Neds and Dabble. This expansion is drawing substantial criticism from anti-gambling groups that claim that gaming companies are staying one step ahead of regulators.
In late 2022, TikTok agreed to allow Sportsbet to run limited advertising in Australia. At the time, the company was heavily criticised because its advertising focused on women and young people. Recently, the advertising trial was expanded to Neds and Dabble.
According to a TikTok spokesperson, “Advertisements are targeted at those aged 21 and over, there is a frequency cap at which the ads are shown, and there is an opt-out feature for those who do not wish to see the ads. We are continuing to monitor the ads to ensure that all users have a safe experience.”
Neds advertising appears to focus exclusively on convincing players to download its app. Meanwhile, Dabble is producing videos with ex-AFL star Dane Swan. For example, in his first video, Swan read a series of prepared jokes on his “first day” of working with the company.
As expected, there has been significant backlash against TikTok and gaming companies regarding the ads. Deakin University research fellow Simone McCarthy shared that TikTok is a valuable resource to gaming companies.
She states, “This just shows that sports betting companies are always one step ahead. It’s quite narrow to just look at the impact of gambling ads with sports [coverage], as young people are predominately spending their time on social media. The sports betting companies have switched on and are moving to these platforms where governments are not looking.”
All ads shown on TikTok must show responsible gambling messages similar to what you see on TV or print ads. However, McCarthy believes these messages are less effective on social media. McCarthy thinks that most people watching the TikTok videos will swipe on to the next video before the responsible gambling messages are displayed, thus making them less effective.
The Alliance for Gambling Reform has also spoken out against the expansion. While TikTok claims that the trials have sufficient controls, the AGR is concerned that this form of advertising will cause a significant influx of younger players and women to gambling platforms.
A spokesperson voiced concerns over the types of gaming that are being advertised. They claim that the ads are “gender-targeted,” such as ads promoting betting on reality TV shows like Love Island and White Lotus.
When TikTok first announced the limited gambling ads trial in Australia, pushback was expected. The country has been progressively moving towards a total ban on gambling advertising, particularly among sports teams.
However, a controlled trial by TikTok should be viewed as a responsible measure rather than an invasive one. TikTok is not allowing every gaming platform to display ads, but rather licensed and regulated sites. Furthermore, the site is using sensible measures, such as an opt-out feature for those that do not wish to see gambling ads.
TikTok and other social media platforms are used to share a variety of opinions and ideas. Online gambling is a socially accepted activity that can be enjoyed responsibly. TikTok is not allowing gambling ads to be broadcast to all members and ages and appears to be taking the necessary steps to promote responsible gambling.
For now, players should be allowed to decide whether to view these ads. If the government and other organisations wish to study the impacts of these ads, that’s fine. However, players should be allowed to make up their own minds about whether online gambling is for them.