On the normalisation of online sports gambling among young adult men in the UK: a public health perspective

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Objectives: Online sports gambling has become an increasingly popular feature of male youth culture and fandom in recent decades. Fuelled by advances in mobile app technologies and the liberalisation of state regulations on advertising, this ‘gamblification’ of sport has given rise to a global industry promoting gambling as a knowledge-based, risk-free leisure activity. This study examined how the growth of online sports gambling has impacted on gambling behaviours among young adult men in the UK and how it may pose new risks concerning the normalisation of gambling behaviours. Study design: The study used a multiphased qualitative research design. Methods: The study was conducted with 32 adult men (aged 18–35 years) across two sites, Derry, Northern Ireland, and Bristol, England. It comprised three phases of data collection: participatory focus groups, a 30-day gambling diary and semistructured interviews. Results: Four main themes emerged. First, data suggest that gambling has become a normalised aspect of sports fandom for male youth demographics, many of whom view the casual wagering of money as vital to their enjoyment of sport. Second, the perceived ‘facelessness’ of sports gambling platforms via mobile app technologies was reported to increase inclination to engage in sports betting. Third, ‘free bet’ incentives and in-play promotions play a significant role as a mechanism of inducement towards sports gambling practices. Fourth was the potential role of online sports gambling as a gateway to gambling-related harms, including financial precarity, indebtedness, mortgage defaults, family breakdown, loss of employment and mental health struggles. Conclusion: Online sports gambling has significant public health implications, particularly for male youth demographics. Policymakers in the UK should consider stronger regulation of gambling-related advertising and sponsorship in sport, independent risk assessments of sports gambling products and a commitment to safeguarding youth demographics from gambling-related harm in a digital age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-94
Number of pages6
JournalPublic Health
Early online date13 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2020


  • Gambling
  • Public health
  • Qualitative
  • Sport
  • Young people

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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