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      Gambling advertising on Twitter before, during and after the initial Australian COVID-19 lockdown


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          Background and aims

          COVID-19 resulted in the shutdown of almost all sporting competitions and most venue-based gambling opportunities. This study examines how wagering operators in Australia responded, by examining their advertising.


          The study compared Twitter activity during lockdown (March–May 2020) to the previous year for four major wagering operators.


          Wagering operators continued to advertise in earnest, changing their marketing mix to include more race betting content, as races continued to operate. Most also promoted the only sports available, such as table tennis or esports. When sports resumed, sports betting advertising quickly returned to normal, or exceeded previous levels. Despite more content being available in the case of two operators, engagement from the public during lockdown was similar to or lower than previously.

          Discussion and conclusion

          These results indicate that gambling operators can adjust quickly to major changes. These shifts appear to have been successful, with the increase in race betting during this period almost completely offsetting the decreases in sports betting. This is likely due in part to changes in advertising, which have been associated with increased betting activity, particularly amongst vulnerable people. Responsible gambling messages were virtually non-existent on Twitter, which contrasts with mandatory requirements in other media. The study highlights that regulatory changes to advertising, e.g., banning some content, are likely to be met with substitution of content, rather than reduction, unless advertising volume is also capped. The study also highlights the adaptive capacity of the gambling industry in the face of major disruption to supply.

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          Most cited references53

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          Changes in Adult Alcohol Use and Consequences During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US

          This survey study examines individual-level changes in alcohol use in US adults and associated negative consequences, from before to during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
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            Acute mental health responses during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia

            The acute and long-term mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are unknown. The current study examined the acute mental health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in 5070 adult participants in Australia, using an online survey administered during the peak of the outbreak in Australia (27th March to 7th April 2020). Self-report questionnaires examined COVID-19 fears and behavioural responses to COVID-19, as well as the severity of psychological distress (depression, anxiety and stress), health anxiety, contamination fears, alcohol use, and physical activity. 78% of respondents reported that their mental health had worsened since the outbreak, one quarter (25.9%) were very or extremely worried about contracting COVID-19, and half (52.7%) were worried about family and friends contracting COVID-19. Uncertainty, loneliness and financial worries (50%) were common. Rates of elevated psychological distress were higher than expected, with 62%, 50%, and 64% of respondents reporting elevated depression, anxiety and stress levels respectively, and one in four reporting elevated health anxiety in the past week. Participants with self-reported history of a mental health diagnosis had significantly higher distress, health anxiety, and COVID-19 fears than those without a prior mental health diagnosis. Demographic (e.g., non-binary or different gender identity; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status), occupational (e.g., being a carer or stay at home parent), and psychological (e.g., perceived risk of contracting COVID-19) factors were associated with distress. Results revealed that precautionary behaviours (e.g., washing hands, using hand sanitiser, avoiding social events) were common, although in contrast to previous research, higher engagement in hygiene behaviours was associated with higher stress and anxiety levels. These results highlight the serious acute impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of respondents, and the need for proactive, accessible digital mental health services to address these mental health needs, particularly for those most vulnerable, including people with prior history of mental health problems. Longitudinal research is needed to explore long-term predictors of poor mental health from the COVID-19 pandemic.
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              Self-Reported Alcohol, Tobacco, and Cannabis Use during COVID-19 Lockdown Measures: Results from a Web-Based Survey

              Background The outbreak of coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) has led to measures of social distancing and quarantine worldwide. This stressful period may lead to psychological problems, including increases in substance use. Objective To investigate changes in alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis consumption before and during COVID-19 lockdown and motives for these changes in substance use. Method A web-based survey was filled out by an unselected population during the social distancing measures of the COVID-19 pandemic in Belgium that assessed changes in alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis consumption in the period before and during the COVID-19 lockdown and also asked about reasons for change. Results A total of 3,632 respondents (mean age 42.1 ± 14.6 years; 70% female) filled out the survey. Overall, respondents reported consuming more alcohol (d = 0.21) and smoking more cigarettes (d = 0.13) than before the COVID-19 pandemic (both p < 0.001), while no significant changes in the consumption of cannabis were noted. The odds of consuming more alcohol during the lockdown were associated with younger age (OR = 0.981, p < 0.001), more children at home (OR = 1.220, p < 0.001), non-healthcare workers (p < 0.001), and being technically unemployed related to COVID-19 (p = 0.037). The odds of smoking more cigarettes during the lockdown were associated with younger age (OR = 0.988, p = 0.027), current living situation (p < 0.001), lower education (p = 0.015), and working situation related to COVID-19 (p = 0.018). Boredom, lack of social contacts, loss of daily structure, reward after a hard-working day, loneliness, and conviviality were the main reasons for consuming more of the various substances. Conclusions During the lockdown, individuals consumed slightly more alcohol and smoked marginally more cigarettes compared to the period before the lockdown. Further research focussing on follow-up of individuals at risk may be useful to provide appropriate care in post-COVID times.

                Author and article information

                Journal of Behavioral Addictions
                Akadémiai Kiadó (Budapest )
                16 May 2023
                29 June 2023
                : 12
                : 2
                : 557-570
                [1 ] Experimental Gambling Research Laboratory, School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, CQUniversity , 400 Kent St, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia
                [2 ] Experimental Gambling Research Laboratory, School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, CQUniversity , 6 University Dr, Branyan, QLD 4670, Australia
                [3 ] Experimental Gambling Research Laboratory, School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, CQUniversity , 44 Greenhill Rd, Wayville, SA 5034, Australia
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author. E-mail: a.m.russell@ 123456cqu.edu.au
                Author information
                © 2023 The Author(s)

                Open Access. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium for non-commercial purposes, provided the original author and source are credited, a link to the CC License is provided, and changes – if any – are indicated.

                : 14 December 2022
                : 09 March 2023
                : 04 April 2023
                : 30 April 2023
                Page count
                Figures: 6, Tables: 3, Equations: 0, References: 53, Pages: 14

                Evolutionary Biology,Medicine,Psychology,Educational research & Statistics,Social & Behavioral Sciences


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