How the gambling industry gets people to gamble

The gambling industry uses a number of tactics to pull people in

Written by spunout


For some people, gambling can be something they do from time to time. For others, it can become a problem.

Understanding how the gambling industry uses certain tactics to initially pull people in and to keep people engaged in gambling is important. If you are aware of this you will be able to see how you might be manipulated or encouraged to gamble.

Online gambling games

Gambling has been introduced into many of the games we play online on mobile apps, on websites, and social media, often without it being very obvious to the person using them.

Mobile apps

It’s now possible to play casino-style games, like slot machines, roulette, or card games on websites or apps.

A lot of these games can be played for free. You must be over 18 to gamble, but many of these free games don’t require you to verify your age.

According to experts in behavioural addiction, these virtual betting and gambling games are a big risk factor in creating a gambling addiction in a young person later in life.

There are a few things to consider if you come across one of these games:

  • Even if these games are free, you could eventually end up playing for money on other apps
  • When you play these games on a mobile app, you might not be aware of how much money it is possible to lose
  • Normally, these types of games could only be played in a casino, and you must be over 18 to play
  • Through the apps, people are introduced to these games a lot earlier in life, which could create a culture of gambling among young people
  • These games could lead to young people becoming addicted to gambling later in life

Free bets

Another tactic used by the gambling industry is to offer free bets to encourage people to gamble, and then eventually use their own money to continue playing.

  • Free bets are used as a way of drawing people in, because at first they feel like they’re not gambling with real money
  • A person playing on a free bet might even win money, and that could make the player want to continue with their own money
  • Eventually, it might become difficult to stop, and they will continue to gamble with their own money

Free bets are also used as a way to make you continue gambling. Many online companies will send you special offers in emails and through social media ads to keep you going, including free bets or by adding a small amount of money to your account to gamble with. Be cautious of these offers and how much money you could end up spending.

Advertising and sponsorship

Many young people are first introduced to the idea of gambling on TV, online, and through sporting events. These adverts show gambling as something fun and normal to do, which could encourage young people to gamble themselves.

TV adverts

A survey carried out by the Gambling Commission in the UK in 2016 found that 51% of people surveyed recalled seeing a gambling advertisement on TV.

TV adverts make gambling look like a fun and easy way to earn money, but they avoid showing the negative things that could happen as a result of gambling.

It’s important to remember that although these adverts make it appear as though you could win a lot of money, what they don’t show is that it’s also possible to lose a lot of money.

Online adverts

Betting and gambling websites use a number of digital marketing tactics to get you to come back to their site.

If you have visited a gambling app or website in the last 30 days, you are more likely to see an ad for that website when you’re browsing the internet. This is called retargeting, when companies track when you have been on their website and use that information to promote themselves to you again and again. Find out more information about retargeting and algorithms

This could also happen if you like certain pages or search for certain topics related to gambling online.

Sometimes there might even be an offer of free bets or money in these ads, which could encourage you to go back and gamble, even when you might not be in the best position to do so. These ads can make it hard to stay away from gambling, as they keep the idea of gambling or betting at the top of your mind.


The gambling industry’s biggest sponsorship area is sport, where adverts and logos can be found on football grounds, on jerseys, and before and after sport broadcasts on TV.

Research has shown that the increase in gambling advertisement in sport, particularly in football, is “highly likely” to contribute to the normalisation of gambling.

Young people might be encouraged to gamble when they see the name of a betting company on their favourite player’s shirt. The more sponsorships and adverts that are seen around sport, the more likely it is that a young person might see gambling as a normal thing to do when watching a sport game, even when it might not be the best idea to do so.

Reducing your gambling with self-exclusion

If you decide you want to take a break from gambling for a while, you can take part in self-exclusion. Self-exclusion is when you voluntarily exclude yourself from gambling on certain websites or at betting shops in a certain area for a minimum of 6 weeks.

This means you will not be able to use your login details to get into your account, and if you exclude yourself from a betting shop, then they will not take any bets from you in the store.

In order for self-exclusion to work, betting shops and gambling companies need to cooperate. Unfortunately, some investigations have found that people have been able to continue gambling in shops they have self-excluded from.

Blocking software

If your gambling is problematic and you have decided to stop, you can download software that blocks gambling sites from your device. This helps to create a buffer from the site and can be used as a relapse prevention strategy. This means that even if you were to try and create a new account, you won’t be able to while the website it blocked. Gamban is a software that will block gambling websites from your computer, and they offer free subscriptions to third level students in Ireland.

While self exclusion is a good first step, it should be used alongside other forms of support

Why does it matter?

Everything the gambling industry does is trying to encourage you to spend more money on gambling. If you come across adverts for gambling everywhere online, or decide to download a free casino-style game, you might begin to see this as a normal, everyday thing to do. What you aren’t seeing are the messages around how destructive gambling can be for some people, and what steps you should take to make sure you’re gambling responsibly.

Gambling can become a real problem for some people, and how you are introduced to the idea of gambling could have an impact on your relationship with gambling. It’s important to be aware not only of the negative side of gambling, but also of the different marketing techniques companies you to pull you into and keep you gambling.

How can I stop gambling?

Gambling can be difficult to give up and you may have to try a few different things, but recovery is possible no matter how hopeless the situation may feel.

You can contact Gambler’s Anonymous for information, advice and support.

Find out more about support services for gambling problems.

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