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Urgent World Cup TV betting adverts now urgent problem for Advertising Standards Authority says new psychology research

Research by applied psychologists at the University of Warwick on urgent TV betting adverts during the recent football FIFA World Cup has led them to have significant concerns for punters, and a challenge for the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority. The researchers are calling on advertisers and the Advertising Standards Authority to work together with equal urgency on the issue of adverts with “significant time limitation“ particularly as the new Premier League football season is about to kick off.

The University of Warwick researchers tracked the frequency and content of live-odds TV adverts shown over all 32 2018 World Cup matches shown by one broadcaster. The researchers found that in total, 63 live-odds adverts were shown by five unique betting companies.

They found this worrying for two reasons. Firstly because it may be seen as being against the spirit of the Advertising Standards Authority’s recent guidance which came into force on April 2nd 2018 on “impulsiveness and urgency”:

“In order not to encourage gambling behaviour that is irresponsible, marketing communications should not unduly pressure the audience to gamble, especially when gambling opportunities offered are subject to a significant time limitation.”

For example, one advert shown immediately before kick-off in England’s match against Colombia was for, “England to score in the first 20 minutes, 4-to-1,” a match seen by 23.8 million viewers. They found that 36 adverts were shown during the half-time break, 15 adverts showed a recent improvement in odds, and 10 adverts were for “flash odds,” described on the bookmaker’s website as, “which means that if you’re not quick enough, they could be gone in a flash.”

The applied psychology researchers’ second concern comes from evidence that punters regularly misjudge the probabilities on the very specific bets which dominated World Cup advertising. One bookmaker for instance advertised this bet ahead of England versus Tunisia: “England to win by three or more goals, Harry Kane to score, and over 11 corners, 16-to-1.”

This bet only pays off in very specific circumstances. But each part of the bet feels likely to happen, and that feeling can lead people to overestimate the bet’s chances of coming in. In the end Harry Kane scored twice, but England only won by a one goal margin. Bets like this dominated the World Cup advertising. The researchers’ prior work shows that these bets come in less often than football fans think, and they have very high profit margins for the bookies.

Looking over all five betting companies the researchers found that:

Company One showed 31 live-odds adverts. Of these, 14 adverts were shown before the given match began, and 13 out of these 14 were on the match’s final scoreline, e.g., “Germany to win 4-0, 25-to-1.” Only one of these pre-match adverts differed: “Sterling to score the first goal, 11-to-1.” All 17 of Bookmaker One’s half-time adverts were on the next goalscorer’s identity, e.g., “Neymar to score next, 9-to-2.” Next goal scorer bets are clearly highly urgent, being realized as soon as the next goal is scored, and lasting for a maximum of 45 minutes if shown at half-time.

Company Two showed only two live-odds adverts: On Sergio Aguero to score two or more goals in 90 minutes, and on Kevin De Bruyne to score in 90 minutes.

Company Three showed four live-odds adverts: Two adverts on a penalty shootout to occur, one on both teams to score in the first half, and one on Kevin De Bruyne to score from outside the box. All four odds were shown to be changing, e.g., “Was 8-to-1, now 12-to-1.”

Company Four showed two live-odds adverts: One shown at half-time, on Harry Kane to score in the second half. The second advert was shown immediately before kick-off for Colombia versus England, “England to score in the first 20 minutes, 4-to-1,” a match seen by 23.8 million viewers . Both adverts contained features of immediacy. The impulsiveness and urgency of the Harry Kane odds were shown to be changing, “was 13-to-8, now 9-to-4.” The second advert had a very short time window of only 20 minutes.

Company Five showed 24 live-odds adverts. Of these, 10 adverts showed odds changing, e.g., “Lionel Messi to score and Argentina to win, was 3-to-1 now 4-to-1.” These changing odds were described as “flash odds,” where, “good bets can become even better.” Additionally, 13 adverts were shown during the half-time break. In total, 18 odds were for highly complex combinations of events, e.g., “Brazil to win, Neymar to score, both teams to score, and Xhaka to be carded, 18-to-1.”

The research report entitled “Impulsiveness and urgency: Gambling advertising and the 2018 soccer World Cup” was written by Dr Philip Newall, Mr Ankush Thobhani, Dr Lukasz Walasek and Professor Caroline Meyer at the University of Warwick.

Dr Philip Newall said:

"Technology and legislation have transformed the UK’s gambling scene. Football betting used to be relatively low frequency, with bets being made in person or via telephone, and most matches held on Saturday afternoons. Bets can now be placed either online or on a mobile, and on around the clock international matches. In addition, with “in-play” gambling, bets can be placed throughout a sporting event, as odds update in real time with the ebb and flow of play."

"Our research suggests that that Advertising Standards Authority’s recent guidance on “impulsiveness and urgency:” may not be enough to protect consumers from the psychological pressure of urgency to bet on an offer that may be far more complex than the punter may first think it is. There may be good reason to ban all live-odds betting adverts."

Dr Lukasz Walasek said:

"There has been a shift in psychological science towards more open practices so that other researchers can more accurately evaluate, and replicate, presented findings. We believe that providing data and preprints on online repositories is an excellent way to keep the public informed. We hope that this will also positively contribute to the public's trust in science."

Note for editors: The researchers have issued this research as a preprint before full peer review as they believes that the matter requires urgent discussion by researchers, policy makers and the advertising and betting industries. The preprint can be found at https://psyarxiv.com/3uc9s/ and the anonymized data presented in the preprint can be found at https://osf.io/xnkgq/ . The researchers welcome feedback on their findings and are open to cross-validating their results against other datasets. They also undertake to fully update the results with any missed relevant adverts.

For further information please contact

Dr Philip Newall, University of Warwick
Philip.Newall@warwick.ac.uk

or

Dr Lukasz Walasek, University of Warwick
 L.Walasek@warwick.ac.uk

or

Peter Dunn, Director of Press and Media Relations
University of Warwick
Tel UK 024 76523708 office 07767 655860 mobile
Tel Overseas:+44 (0)24 76523708 office +44 (0)7767 655860 mobile/cell
Email p.j.dunn@warwick.ac.uk

PR PJD 9th August 2018