Especially young adults encounter gambling marketing on social media

Publication date 10.1.2023 7.00
News item

Illegal gambling advertising has been especially targeted at young adults on social media channels for several years. Marketing typically utilises the popularity of social media celebrities and aims to associate gambling with images of success, coping well in life, prosperity and publicity. However, gambling causes serious social, health and economic harms, which are ignored in advertising.

Influence through image marketing

Social media marketing has clear benefits when one wants to influence consumers and their images and to create needs.

- Popular influencers are perhaps perceived as more credible sources than traditional advertisements, and the persuasive way of advertising gambling through one’s own actions or personality obscures the perception that  it is all about marketing gambling, says Juhani Ala-Kurikka, Senior Adviser at the National Police Board’s Gambling Administration.

It is possible to play on illegally advertised gambling sites without many of the restrictions through which the exclusive system of Mainland Finland seeks to protect players. In legally offered games, protection from the most difficult harms is provided by loss and deposit limits as well as restrictions on how often games are played. Welcome offers or free spins may not be given to players in Mainland Finland, due to the harms associated with gambling. 

No Limit campaign introduced to increase awareness 

On 10 January, the National Police Board launched a campaign to eradicate influencer marketing on social media. The campaign entitled Ei mitään rajaa (No Limit) aims to increase awareness of illegal gambling marketing among young adults. The campaign consists of videos shared on social media, in which an imaginary social media influencer realises the true nature of image advertising. 

Veikkaus Oy, which is fully owned by the state, has the exclusive right to implement and market gambling in Mainland Finland. Despite this, some other gambling operators also market their games intensively to consumers in Finland. The most popular marketing channels include social media platforms, such as TikTok, Instagram and Twitch. 

- We hope that the videos will make young adults think what influencer marketing is in the end all about. Unfortunately, it has remained unclear to many people, including influencers who market gambling services, that gambling marketing from abroad to Mainland Finland is unequivocally prohibited. It is unlawful. Traditional notification by the authorities does not help much in a situation where the message is targeted at young adults who may be heavy users of social media, Ala-Kurikka continues. 

In addition to three more casual videos, the campaign includes an interview video in which Kai Mattila, who has had serious gambling harms, tells his own story and shares his thoughts about social media marketing. The videos will be shared on TikTok and Instagram from 10 January 2023 and will also be available on the police’s YouTube channel Poliisitube in the future.

The National Police Board supervises gambling across the board

The National Police Board closely supervises the gambling services of Veikkaus Oy, the exclusive operator, and is able to clarify, for example, possible disagreements between the player and the gambling operator related to the winnings of gambling and to recommend a resolution in the case. With regard to gambling services offered from abroad to Mainland Finland, the National Police Board has no authority to safeguard the legal protection of players if there are any ambiguities. 

From the beginning of 2023, the Police Board has also used payment blocks to intervene in illegal gambling marketing. The blocks will restrict payments from players to such gambling operators that have obtained the National Police Board’s decision to prohibit marketing in violation of the Lotteries Act.

- Payment service providers have an obligation to block payments as required by the National Police Board. If payments are not blocked in accordance with the payment blocks, the National Police Board may prohibit a payment service provider from initiating and implementing payment transactions for gambling services. A conditional fine may be imposed to reinforce the prohibition, says Ala-Kurikka.

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