A story by the Guardian newspaper claims that the online gambling company Coral paid parenting bloggers to offer gambling tips to new mothers.
The site was reportedly paying blogs to recommend its online casino games and link to its website. The practice was widely condemned as “predatory” by mental health and addiction experts the newspaper talked to. They also cited a source that worked for the company and said it was aware of the practice.
Coral apparently made deals with the bloggers under the guise of relieving the stress of caring for a new baby, then put in the links back to the gambling site.
One post was supposedly about baby food recipes, but quickly turned to gambling—“If as a mum you can’t leave the house, then why not consider bingo online? You can click here to play Bingo online at Coral – this momentary break from childcare can prove beneficial.”
Another stated: “opulent games of online roulette that are easy to learn and can provide some handy winnings too.”
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, told the Guardian this was terrible business practice.
“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 behavior 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.”
The Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) guidelines state that gambling adverts must not be “socially irresponsible,” including presenting betting as a way to relieve loneliness or depression. The guidelines also say that gambling can’t be presented as a “solution to financial concerns.”
Three other parenting blogs were associated with recommending online casino and bingo and then linking back to the Coral website.
A representative for Entain, which owns Coral, said the articles were posted between 2014-2016 before the company bought the company from Ladbrokes. They added they would try and get them removed from the websites, but added since they were on a site not affiliated with the company it would be difficult to achieve.
“Neither Coral nor any Entain brand actively targets young mothers or any other potentially vulnerable group through the use of affiliate marketing,” a spokesperson told the Guardian. “We do not make payments to any of the sites in the examples provided.”