E-gambling: IIM Rohtak survey demonstrates power of celebrity endorsers

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A recent study by Dheeraj Sharma, Director Professor of IIM Rohtak, claimed that a young person exposed to a celebrity endorsing online gambling is more likely to try it, which may push many youngsters towards addiction.

The survey consisted of 1,004 participants between the age group of 14-28 earlier this month. At the end of the survey, it was found that the chance of person gambling doubled when a celebrity was associated with the brand.

The answers were different for various celebrities as it mostly depended on their attractiveness, trustworthiness and familiarity with the audience.

The answers also changed when celebrities endorsing online gambling gave a statutory warning about gambling addiction, with almost a 50% reduction in individual gambling choices.

According to the study, “Celebrity endorsement, i.e., the use of attractive, trustworthy, and familiar celebrities for advertising online gambling applications, was found to have a statistically significant impact on the propensity to gamble among youth. Thus, it can be concluded that for every ten-unit increase in the endorser’s attractiveness, trustworthiness, or familiarity, the target customer’s propensity to gamble increases nearly six-fold.”

“The effect is reduced on the propensity to gamble and patronage to gambling by nearly half when the statutory warning is given by celebrity,” the report added.

Prof. Sharma revealed the reason behind the study was an “abnormal spike in a proliferation of online gambling apps and celebrities endorsing them” during the pandemic.

In a statement to TOI, Sharma said, “So, we decided to look deeper and find emerging trends that can be a harbinger for audits and regulatory measures to monitor this burgeoning industry.” Survey also revealed that around 78% of the participants were aware of online gambling applications.

A co-researcher and faculty member, Dr. Madhurima Mishra, said, “If such endorsements are allowed to continue without regulation, it may force the youth to not only addiction but also debts.”

“We manipulated the use of celebrity vs. non-celebrity in the endorsement of online gambling apps and the use of celebrity vs. non-celebrity in stating the statutory warning in the advertisement. After presenting the manipulations, we asked participants to take a short survey in which they rated their intention to utilize the advertised gambling application,” she added.

A report from Statista revealed that the online gaming industry in India has crossed 100 billion in 2021 and might cross 153 billion by 2024. Games like Rummy and fantasy sports are the top contributors to revenue.

Another study from FICCI-EY estimated that fantasy sports alone can cross $2.5 billion in 2022 and $3.7 billion by 2024.

Sharma said, “The aim is to understand the emerging trends and suggest corrective measures to turn gambling into a regulated sport. These apps use coding that should be tested and displayed via some form of labeling to ensure that there’s randomness and not a design to trick users. Likewise, there should be KYC norms for apps and users so that the flow of money can be traced and taxed. And above all, there should be legal provisions that mandate that celebrities endorsing these apps need to explicitly spell out financial risks and addiction probability involved with these games.”