Online gambling operators ordered to remove child-friendly advertising
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), and the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), have together issued a joint letter to online gambling companies ordering them to remove from their websites any marketing material that could appeal to under 18s.
The move comes after The Sunday Times had launched an investigation of its own, the results of which were published in the paper. The investigation claimed that many operators were targeting minors with marketing material and games that would specifically appeal to them.
The Gambling Commission had responded to the claims in the paper’s publication, but the joint letter takes things a step further and shows how seriously this topic is viewed by regulators and the industry’s watchdog. The letter advises that the firms should remove the content and material even if it doesn’t market real-money games.
The letter states that adverts should be amended or removed and applies to all graphics and images on both companies’ websites and on third party sources:
“You must immediately amend or remove any freely accessible ads on your website or in third party media space that are likely to appeal particularly to under 18s”.
Marketing material remains the focus
While the Sunday Times and anti-gambling groups will be pleased with the news, currently, the calls are only for marketing material to be removed or amended, and not the games themselves.
Currently, the requests of the letter are not binding. However, with content that could appeal to minors, operators risk a sanction from both the CAP and the UKGC. The CAP code states that adverts must be socially responsible in regard to protecting young people. The use of cartoon characters, imagery, and colours, is where many operators are falling foul of the code.
The Gambling industry has not yet reacted to the news, but were quick to dispute the findings of the Sunday Time’s investigation. Industry spokespeople cited the Know Your Customer (KYC) age checks that are in place as one example of how operators discourage underage gamblers.
Other counter arguments against the claim that operators purposely advertise to minors is that this would be a waste of advertising funds and not cost-effective, since those under 18 years of age cannot bet. Further, operators choose to use computer graphic imagery and characters, rather than real people, purely for the fact it is cheaper, than to appeal to minors.
You can read the letter in full on the website of the UK Gambling Commission.