ITV’s World Cup coverage has come under fire after analysis of its advertising output found that 17% of all advertising breaks were populated by gambling related commercials, equivalent to one minute in every six.
If screened end to end the gambling run would stretch to the length of an entire football match at close to 90 minutes but with the likelihood that many children were exposed to these messages critics are calling for tighter regulations.
At present gambling firms are barred from screening adverts prior to the 9pm watershed but are exempted during live sporting events, prompting a flood of pent-up advertising to wash over the broadcaster.
Research conducted by The University of Sheffield, Box of Broadcasts and The Guardian found that betting promotions were by far the most popular advertising category of the tournament, with over 80 minutes of airtime given to the sector, well ahead of motoring ads which logged just over 60 minutes on air.
Gambling giants bet big on the World Cup, splashing out as much as £350,000 for a 30-second placement, helping the industry achieve saturation coverage during the most watched television events of the year.
Commenting on the findings GambleAware chief executive, Marc Etches, said: “In the absence of evidence, the concern is that this is an adult activity and young people are growing up with it being normalised.
“They get exposed to it on television around sports, advertising online and gambling activities within [video] games. It seems to have gone too far. And for young people growing up there just seems to be a stronger and stronger affiliation between the two [gambling and sport] and I’m wary of that.”
The World Cup appears to be the latest evidence of a wider gambling resurgence as online casinos collectively splurged an estimated £1.2bn on marketing since 2012, equivalent to a 97% increase in ad spend over the past five years.
In all The Guardian logged 1,300 separate adverts screened by ITV over the course of the games of which 172 were betting-related.