UK Advertising Watchdog Warns Gambling Firms on Targeting Children

The UK Advertising Standards Agency has sanctioned three gambling operators over advertisements that could specifically appeal to children. Three specific complaints were made against online casino m88 about games titled Fairytale Legends Red Riding Hood, Fairytale Legends Hansel and Gretel, and Fairies Forest. The agency barred ads that appeal to children on the sites.

The UK Advertising Agency has sanctioned some online gambling operators for ads that cited fairy tale themed games, which could appeal to children.

The complaints were made by the group Fairer Gambling and related to promotions by, and ProgressPlay owned Three of the complaints focused on m88 and ads featuring the games Fairytale Legends Red Riding Hood, Fairytale Legends Hansel and Gretel and Fairies Forest.

The association said the site allowing the games to be played on demo mode before players signing into the site. In response, began requiring age verification to play the games on demo mode and reportedly removed graphics depicting fairies and other children’s characters.

The company also released a statement saying it was policy prior to launching any game that its graphics were thoroughly reviewed to make sure they do not attract children. The group also said that addressing all responsible gambling issues with their business partners was an essential and substantial part of their commercial agreement. Any breach of that policy, authorized to terminate the agreement with their business partners.

The association acknowledged the company’s response, but still ruled that “the ads must not appear again in their current form.”

 Also sanctioned was and run by TGP Europe for complaints that the sites also contain gambling content that could appeal to children. A total of eight complaints were received about the operators including one featuring an animated polar bear titled Santa Paws.

The company also said the demo version of the games were only available after the consumer had logged into the site and gone through age versification.

The authority upheld six of the eight complaints ruling that the ads must be removed from the site as they had a specific appeal to youths and appeared on unrestricted parts of the site. Again, the ads can no longer be shown in their current form.

The sanctions come as the UK government continues to put the heat on gambling firms as a bipartisan group of Parliament ministers is pushing to have gambling ads carry warnings similar to those on cigarette ads. The ministers are also calling for a ban on gambling ads during live sports broadcasts.

The group includes Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson and former Tory Minister John Hayes and wants to ban ads that suggest gambling is “fun.”

The group said in a press statement that “the onus of social responsibility remains subject to the self-regulation of the licensee is not working” and current regulations are being flouted “without fear of meaningful sanction”.

In an open letter to Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, the group urged for measures to ensure “greater compliance, fairness and social responsibility in the advertising and licensing of gambling.”

“Gambling advertising should be consistent with other types of addictive or harmful products to public health such as cigarette packs, by featuring clearly identifiable health warnings that cannot be absorbed into an advert’s overall design,” the letter read. “The wording of gambling advertisements is a problem because words such as ‘win’ and ‘fun’ are emphasized rather than ‘harm’, thus normalizing the idea of gambling as a leisure pursuit rather than an addiction.”

The letter also addressed ads during live sporting events with the group saying that the “current exception to the watershed that permits gambling adverts during live sporting events needs to be closed.”

“We think the only way of closing the current loophole is a comprehensive ban on gambling advertising during live sporting events, including TV ads, billboard ads and clothing sponsorship,” the letter read.

In a related story, the UK Gambling Commission’s newly appointed chief executive Neil McArthur said he will push for more diversity in the gambling industry in his first major speech in his new role.

“I’m particularly pleased to be here to speak about diversity and inclusivity as we need more diversity in the gambling industry. For example, I am struck by the fact that after 12 years I am still a relative newcomer compared to many of the people I meet from the industry, he said.

“As I have said before, the challenges we all face is how to balance consumer choice and enjoyment against the risks gambling can create and its impact on wider society?”

McArthur urged industry leaders to think differently about inclusion and diversity, which should be developed as corporate strengths.

“Key to moving beyond group thinking is diversity—not recruiting from the same pool. Moving beyond what looks, sounds and feels like us to be diverse in terms of backgrounds, ages, opinions. It’s this diversity that will create challenge, scrutiny, which in turn leads to the best thinking, the new ideas and the brave steps forward. “The initiatives that change the world come from this kind of thinking and without diversity of input at every level within your organization you simply do not get that.”