Child gambling: remove 'unacceptable' online ads, regulators demand
Regulators have launched a crackdown on child gambling by demanding online gambling sites remove “unacceptable” adverts featuring cartoon characters likely to appeal to children.
The Gambling Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority are among the signatories to a letter sent to online gambling operators that orders them to remove games promoted with characters with names such as Fluffy Favourites and Pirate Princess. Some of the games are free to play, which experts say presents a risk of children developing a gambling habit.
The letter, which was sent to more than 450 operators including William Hill and Bet365 on Friday, 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 colours, cartoons and comic book images, animals, child and youth-orientated references and names of games such as Piggy Payout, Fluffy Favourites, Pirate Princess and Jack and the Beanstalk are likely, alone or in combination, to enhance appeal to under-18s.”
The regulators said such adverts were unacceptable. The letter, also signed by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Remote Gambling Association, said sanctions were possible if sites failed to comply with the CAP code, which requires marketing communications for gambling to be socially responsible.
Around 450,000 children are thought to gamble in England and Wales every week.
The CAP code states that marketing communications should protect children, young people and others vulnerable to gambling from being harmed or exploited. It forbids marketing for gambling “likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture”.
Simon Blackburn, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Councils have previously called for greater restrictions on gambling advertising to protect children and we are pleased to see the steps taken by the Gambling Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority... It is vital our children and young people are kept safe and protected from the problems gambling can cause.”