TikTok has expanded an existing trial for sports betting advertising on its platform in Australia to include two additional operators.

Advertising trial background

TikTok had never allowed gambling operators to advertise on its platform before November last year when a trial began which allowed Flutter Entertainment-owned Sportsbet – the biggest online betting company in Australia – to place a limited number of ads on the platform.

A report at the time in The Guardian suggested the brand would use the platform’s unique demographic mix to more effectively reach both young people and women.

Ads recommending customers bet on markets such as Rihanna’s Super Bowl half-time performance subsequently began appearing on TikTok in the run-up to the event, for example.

At that point, TikTok said the trial was a “closed pilot […] for one managed client who has obtained permission from TikTok via an application process.”

A spokesperson for the company added that the ads were only shown to users aged 21 or older and were closely monitored. The frequency of the ads was also restricted, and users had the option to opt out of seeing them.

Neds and Dabble join in

Now two new brands – Entain-owned Neds and a relative newcomer on the scene in social media-inspired operator Dabble – have also been approved to begin advertising on TikTok.

While the social media platform’s advertising policies for Australia state that “ads promoting lotteries, poker, casinos, bingo or any other gambling-related content” are prohibited, “advertisers may run sports betting ads on the platform with TikTok’s explicit permission.”

According to a new report in The Guardian, Neds is now encouraging users to download its gambling app, while Dabble is creating content in collaboration with former Australian Football League (AFL) star Dane Swan.

Ads must adhere to local marketing regulations as well as TikTok’s own guidelines, including the mandatory use of Australia’s responsible gambling slogans, such as “chances are you’re about to lose.”

Criticism floods in

However, some still suspect the ads will lead to an increase in gambling-related harm.

Simone McCarthy, a research fellow at Deakin University focused on gambling, told The Guardian that responsible gambling slogans are likely to be less effective on TikTok than on television, as “when you’re watching television, you’re forced to watch that message but on TikTok most users have already swiped to watch another video.”

In addition, concerns abound around operators’ ability to strictly define their audience by age and gender, with young women likely to be targeted with inducements to place bets on non-sporting events, such as reality TV programme Love Island.

Several commentators rushed to Twitter to express their concerns.

Daryl Adair, associate professor in sports management at the University of Technology Sydney’s Business School, said: “The most popular app for kids now a haven for gambling ads. What could go wrong?”

Independent Australian politician Kate Chaney, meanwhile, insisted: “We must effectively regulate this area – communities don’t want this.”

Messages like these are indicative of a wider push in Australia to reduce the amount of gambling advertising currently seen in the country.

Criticism of the industry and its practices has already led to developments such as Entain dropping its shirt sponsorships of Australian sports teams, the mandatory introduction of more discouraging responsible gambling slogans and calls for a wide-ranging crackdown on TV advertising.

Betr has secured an exclusive partnership with the Cavinder Twins, a pair of high-flying and high-profile social media and US college sports stars.

The 22-year-old sisters shot to fame as basketball players for the Miami Hurricanes but have decided to call time on their tenure at Miami to pursue other fame and business ventures.

The twins have amassed more than 4.5 million followers on TikTok and present the Twin Talk podcast on iHeartRadio.

That podcast will now head exclusively to Betr’s media division as part of a deal which also sees the Cavinder twins join up as equity partners, content creators and creative directors.

Everyone keeps asking what’s next?

The Cavinder Twins just got betr ⚡️@CavinderHaley @CavinderHanna

— betr (@betr) April 19, 2023

A Betr statement said the twins would become “foundational on-camera talent” for the company while helping to create female-centric sports and betting content.

Betr was co-founded and launched as a US online sports betting disruptor in August 2022 by Simplebet founder Joey Levy and social media personality Jake Paul.

Betr Media, which acts as a marketing subdivision for the sportsbook, has already generated more than 900 million impressions and 50 million engagements across its social channels.

In March, Levy told iGaming NEXT that Betr wanted to “incubate” the next dozen Jake Pauls. The Cavinder Twins joining ranks is arguably the first evidence of that strategy.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Cavinder Twins, who have already accomplished so much and are just scratching the surface of their potential,” said Levy in a press release.

Cavinder Twins agent Jeff Hoffman on the partnership with Betr: “It’s like adding jet fuel to an already burning fire.”

Levy said the company plans to leverage the rapidly growing Jake Paul and Betr Media audiences to make emerging talent even more famous, while also providing content development, production and media sales support.

“Betr Media’s objective is to attract, enhance, and amplify the next wave of generational content creators, and this partnership is a testament to that approach,” he added.

In April, the twins announced they would forgo their final year of college sports eligibility to explore other options, including a potential career in WWE.

Their agent Jeff Hoffman said Betr provided the perfect opportunity to grow the Cavinder Twins brand. “It’s like adding jet fuel to an already burning fire,” he added.

“With Betr’s media savvy, the explosion of female sports and Betr’s disruptive behaviour in gambling, it became a question of how far can we go and where do we sign?”

ChatGPT? Not for me

“Chatbots are bullshit engines built to say things with incontrovertible certainty and a complete lack of expertise,” argued Business Insider senior correspondent Adam Rogers this week.

It was refreshing to hear the other side of the story after months of chatter around how AI-based programmes like ChatGPT are going to revolutionise our lives, whether we like it or not.

And there is no lack of recent, high-profile examples to back up Rogers’ hypothesis.

With OpenAI’s ChatGPT storming ahead as the most popular chatbot on the scene, industry giants like Google and Microsoft are getting keener to throw their hats into the ring.

While both businesses certainly have the technological chops to launch AI-based programmes to the public, it has previously been reported that they are reluctant to do so while the technology is still so prone to making mistakes.

And indeed, their fears have in many ways been realised, just as Rogers points out.

An ad last week for Google’s chatbot, Bard, showed it getting an answer to a question wrong. After the mistake was picked up by the public, Google owner Alphabet’s share price took a 9% hammering, wiping billions of dollars in value off the company’s market cap.

Microsoft-owned Bing’s chatbot, Sydney, also gave less-than-accurate information during its open demonstration recently.

The reason for that is that large language models do not possess true intelligence, but are able to predict the likelihood of something being correct. If its accuracy is likely enough, information will be used in response to queries and presented as the truth.

“Google’s own AI researchers had warned the company that chatbots would be ‘stochastic parrots’ (likely to squawk things that are wrong, stupid, or offensive) and ‘prone to hallucinating’ (liable to just make stuff up),” according to Rogers.

Naturally, all this brings about new dangers in the realm of disinformation.

In a tale with many twists and turns, meandering through scientific experiments, psychology, philosophy, and quite a lot of swearing, Rogers goes on to explain why people are likely to become increasingly inclined to believe what the bots tell them – whether they’re right or wrong.

NY ad ban bill spreads fear among gambling investors

The Times shone some light on the impact of a new legislative bill introduced in New York last week after congressman Paul Tonko put forward a potential ban on all sports betting advertising in the state and across the US.

The Betting on our Future Act is modelled on the Federal Cigarette Labelling and Advertising Act, the piece explained, and was revealed just as the US sports betting industry was gearing up for the biggest event on its calendar, the Super Bowl.

The bill – whether it is passed in New York or not – should serve as “something as a warning sign to the industry,” according to Goodbody gaming and leisure analyst David Brohan.

While a total ban on TV, radio and internet advertising would be “damaging to market growth in the still nascent US market,” Brohan conceded that big operators with established brands would be insulated against its worst effects.

Indeed, it doesn’t take an especially vivid imagination to envisage a situation where such a ban would make it utterly impossible for smaller brands to have a hope at challenging market leaders like FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars and BetMGM.

Following the news, the piece pointed out that FanDuel owner Flutter Entertainment’s shares slid by 2.8%, while Entain fell by 2.7% – though that was in part due to MGM’s recent assertion that it would not make another attempt to acquire the London-listed gambling giant.

Making for particularly interesting reading was the comments section of the article.

Commenter Ian Wylie pondered: “MGM could just be trying to lower Entain’s share price ready to swoop,” while Sean Thornton took a more antagonistic approach, suggesting the gambling firms should: “Cry me a river.”

Times user cbailey pragmatically suggested we should “Bring in this law in the UK and tax gambling profits at 95%,” while Philip Levy, ever the optimist, dusted off his crystal ball to suggest: “I bet the share prices bounce back.”

And they say that nuance is dead.

TikTok trials gambling ads as Sportsbet targets Rihanna super fans

The Guardian revealed that Flutter-owned online gambling brand Sportsbet is using TikTok to target young women with advertising in an attempt to broaden its predominantly male client base.

The operator has been allowed to target Australian users on the social media platform – which currently bans all gambling promotions – as part of a strictly controlled trial, revealed the newspaper.

And shortly before the Super Bowl took place last week, Sportsbet took advantage of its new permissions, publishing a video ad drawing attention to “novelty bet” markets on Rihanna’s half-time performance.

Bets on such thrilling outcomes as what outfit Rihanna would wear during her performance, what props she would use and how long she would sing for were all included in Sportsbet’s showcase.

In another boon for sports bettors everywhere, users were also encouraged to wager on what colour liquid would be poured on the winning coach after the match. 

NB: Why stop there? Why can’t we bet on what colour laces a particular sportsperson will use to tie their boots, or whether the team captain will appear bearded or clean shaven? Anyone fancy a punt on how many players will mess up the words to the national anthem?

According to the article, Sportsbet has published other videos featuring Sydney-based influencer Luisa Dal Din. One video used the caption: “Me pretending I know horse racing to impress my crush.”

Ah, gambling companies. When will you learn? Is the best way to increase female participation in horse racing betting really to suggest that women don’t understand it, and that they would only bother trying in order to secure the approval of a man?

Advertising expert and swearing enthusiast Toby Ralph said Sportsbet was “finding new markets. [Young women] who couldn’t give a shit about the merits of the Chiefs or the Eagles can be induced to pony up cash by connecting to a bet on Rihanna, and suggesting that the tribe they want to join is crazy for it,” he said.

As for the million dollar question, he answered that too: “Does this lead to ethical concerns? No. From an advertising perspective, if it’s legal, they will go all in.”

Perhaps nuance is dead, after all…