UK Regulators Warn Gaming Sites about Child-Targeted Ads

Sunday, October 29th, 2017 | Written by April Bergman
UK Regulators Warn Gaming Sites about Child-Targeted Ads

Over 450 gambling websites were sent a letter by UK regulators demanding that all ads that are geared towards or might attract and appeal to the under-18 audience should be removed immediately. The letter came from a group of the United Kingdom’s regulatory agencies, including the UK Gambling Commission, the Advertising Standards Authority, the Remote Gambling Association and the Committee of Advertising Practice.

Regulators said the gaming sites’ ads, as well as third-party media, contains graphics and images that are likely to be attractive to vulnerable minors.

The UK Gambling Commission and Advertising Standards Authority warned of possible sanctions were said to be in affect if Operators fail to comply with the CAP code. CAP Codes requires social responsibility for all marketing communications for gambling.

Regulators’ Letter to UK Gambling Sites

The regulators implied that gambling sites use cartoon or comic book images to appeal to underage children. In their opinion, such advertisements are designed specifically to attract the attention of youths, and cannot be justified as ads designed for adult gamblers.

The letter states: “We are writing to advise you to amend or remove immediately any ads on your website or in third party media that are likely to appeal particularly to people aged 17 or younger… and generally available to view. This relates particularly to freely accessible ads for play-for-free and play-for-money games and includes all graphics and images displayed on a website or in third party media.”

“The use of particular colors, cartoons and comic book images, animals, child and youth-orientated references and names of games such as Piggy Payout, Fluffy Favorites, Pirate Princess and Jack and the Beanstalk are likely, alone or in combination, to enhance appeal to under-18s.”

Third-Party Gaming-Related Sites

The UK Gambling Commission appears to be targeting gaming affiliates, too. The letter instructed that changes to third party media spaces would be required.

The advertisements tout specific games, usually online slots or fruit machines. Ads for slots games like Piggy Payout and Jack & The Beanstalk were specifically cited, but many online slots titles use cartoon-themed characters. All of these feature bright cartoon characters and animations that are likely to lure children into gambling, in the opinion of the regulators.

Such games might not be directed at children, but they are easier to design graphically. In an age where adult-themed cartoons are sometimes among the most popular shows on television, all cartoon characters are not targeting children. At the same time, it is hard to argue that Piggy Payout and Fluffy Favorites do not use designs traditionally reserved for an underage audience.

New Age-Verification Policies

The operators who went on record denied intentionally marketing to kids, although some of them agree that the cartoon- and comic-themed ads should be removed. William Hill, a top UK brick-and-mortar and online casino, said it welcomed the new policy.

This new demand will remove quite a few games, at least from the list of slots being advertised.

New policies involving age verification techniques and technology have been instituted, too. The agencies appear ready to crack down on those operators who themselves do not pay close attention to the age verification process.

UK Gambling Commission Study on Underage Betting

The new changes were expected. Last year, the UK Gambling Commission conducted a study of underage gambling in the United Kingdom. The research showed that roughly 450,000 UK children gamble on a weekly basis. Of that number, about 9,000 of those underage players were described as problem gamblers.

The UK’s Local Government Association supported the changes. A spokesman for the association said it previously had asked for greater restrictions in previous discussions.
Councilor Simon Blackburn, chairman of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said of his group’s underage gambling policy, “Problem gambling is a major concern for [local city] councils, which can cause greater personal harm. It can lead to spiralling debt, deteriorating mental health and wellbeing, and a toll on society — and taxpayers – through crime and disorder, family breakdown and homelessness.”

“It is vital our children and young people are kept safe and protected from the problems gambling can cause.”