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Coral accused of paying baby bloggers to promote casino games

Ladbrokes Coral gambling news

Leading UK gambling company Coral has been accused of paying parenting bloggers to advertise its online casino games.

According to reports, the firm directed bloggers to promote its games and attach a link to Coral’s website. The links were embedded in blog posts offering new parents tips to relieve the stress associated with taking care of a new baby.

A post about baby food recipes asked parents that could not leave their houses to consider playing “bingo online” and attached a link to Coral’s website.

A second blog post encouraged parents to play online roulette games because they were “easy to learn and can provide some handy winnings too”. Three other posts on parenting also contained comments recommending online gambling and links to Coral’s website.

Only one blog admitted that the links and references to gambling were part of an affiliate marketing arrangement or sponsorship. It added that the purpose of doing so was to form a link between gambling and women and alter Google’s search results in the process.

In the past few years, gambling companies have made attempts to expand their customer base through methods specifically directed at women.

The guidelines of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) strictly prohibit gambling promotions from using socially irresponsible tactics like presenting the activity as a way to alleviate feelings of stress, depression or loneliness.

They also forbid depictions of gambling as a solution to emotional and financial problems.

NHS England’s national mental health director, Claire Murdoch, released a statement admonishing gambling companies for exhibiting “predatory behaviour” towards a vulnerable group.

“It’s cynical for gambling firms to target new and single mums at a time in their lives when they may be suffering stress, sleep deprivation and issues which make them particularly vulnerable,” Murdoch said.

“This is yet another example of predatory behaviour from a gambling industry which is worth billions each year – while at the same time, the NHS is investing more than ever before in mental health support for new mothers.”

Although Coral previously stated that it would take down the offending posts last week, they were still spotted online by Sunday.

Coral’s parent company, Entain, claimed that the blog posts had been shared as far back as 2014, years before the firm purchased Ladbrokes Coral in 2018.

A spokesperson for the gambling company said, “Neither Coral nor any Entain brand actively targets young mothers or any other potentially vulnerable group through the use of affiliate marketing.”

Entain also claimed that it had no way of stopping third-party entities from posting links to its UK gambling websites. In contrast, an informed source claimed that the articles had been vetted and signed off on by Coral staff before release.

While the company stated that it does not “make payments to any of the sites in the examples provided”, Entain did not disclose if it had done so previously. It also asserted that the embedded links did not give it any search engine benefits.

National Problem Gambling Clinic founder and director Henrietta Bowden-Jones called Coral’s move to target new mothers via blog posts “deeply disturbing” and a way to take advantage of women in a vulnerable state.

“Gambling is not a way out of psychological distress and these embedded messages are taking advantage of people’s circumstances knowing they may be at home alone for far longer periods than ever experienced,” Jones said.

“These are all gambling adverts hiding in full light of day, it may be less apparent to someone new to gambling that these messages are there encouraging people to take up gambling for the first time.”

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