Tom Watson Critical of Tombola Ads on “I’m a Celebrity” App
British MP Tom Watson, the second leading member of the Labour Party, called out the reality tv show “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” for the number of gambling advertisements it shows on its official app. Tom Watson criticized the show and the television channel which broadcasts it, ITV, for showing Tombola commercials so often.
Tombola is a top international online bingo and casino site. Tombola adverts appear on the “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” downloadable app for Android and iOS.
A British media agency estimated that 1 million under-18 viewers see the Tombola ads during a series.
The ad says users who sign up to vote on the tv show’s contests receive “a chance to win a share of £250,000 for free.”
Tombola Gambling Ads
Tom Watson pointed to a UK Gambling Commission report which showed that as many as 55,000 underage children in the UK are problem gamblers. Over 400,000 a year gamble on regularly. A recent UK Gambling Commission report suggested that underage gamblers find their way to betting through gaming apps, social gaming, scratch cards bought by parents, and even fruit machines in pubs.
With underage gambling on the rise, Watson said a gaming company choosing to advertise on an app which appeals to underage viewers is “obviously wrong”.
“I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” has an annual viewership of 11.4 million people, which makes it the most viewed program outside the World Cup. The show, which encourages viewers to vote to determine results on the show, has been on the air for ten years.
Downloadable apps on Google Play and the iTunes Apps Store make it easy for people to watch the show on their smartphones and tablet computers — and easier to vote on the weekly show. While adults download the app, as well, such apps naturally appeal to a younger demographic.
Tom Watson on Gambling Adverts
Tom Watson says he’s seen the commercials and they make gambling seem fun and risk-free, which can lead to reckless behavior. The Labour MP said, “It is obviously wrong that non-age-verified apps can bombard young people, who are simply trying to vote on a TV show, with gambling adverts. The ads are near impossible to navigate around and make gambling seem risk-free and fun.”
“Operators, broadcasters, and the government need to wake up to this crisis and start acting more responsibly. They must ensure adverts on social media cannot be targeted at young and vulnerable people.”
ITV Response to Tom Watson
ITV responded to the criticism, saying through a spokesman that, “The ‘I’m a Celebrity’ sponsorship is fully compliant with Ofcom rules on programme sponsorship and the broadcast committee on advertising practice (BCAP) code rules on content and scheduling.”
It appears that ITV has no intention of taking down the apps or ending the sponsorship by Tombola. Tom Watson has made it a habit to criticize various gambling operators and gaming policies over the past few years, so ITV might see the criticism as background noise.
GambleAware Pipes In
Marc Etches, the CEO of the gaming watchdog group, GambleAware, said gaming advertisements on children’s apps is a public health issue. Etches said, “Frankly, it is completely unacceptable that children are exposed to gambling in this way. The combination of gambling marketing and a blurring of the lines between computer games and gambling are all contributing to the normalisation of gambling for children.”
“It is shocking that 55,000 11 to 16 year olds are problem gamblers. Gambling has become a public health issue in Britain and all of us, including broadcasters, share the responsibility to prevent gambling-related harms generally, and to protect children especially.”
Tombola’s advertisements do not make clear that their site is available for players 18-and-up. Previously, the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that a mobile phone app targeted at all ages was non-compliant when it allowed inappropriate content (including gaming ads) to be seen by children less than 10 years old.