ASA Bans Adverts That Were Accessible By Children

Viktor Vangelov | Published 9 Apr 2019, 11:05 a.m.

We’ve said it at least several times that the ASA and the UK Gambling Commission have been pretty active, and they are giving operators a hard time, announcing and introducing new regulations, limits and restrictions. In February this year, the ASA released new gambling guidance in which it was specifically stated that all operators must take all measures to ensure that gambling ads don’t target individuals under the age of 18. The new regulations are in power since the 1st of April and the ASA didn’t wait too long before they conducted their first checks. A total of 43 companies displayed ads in an environment that didn’t prevent children from watching the ads. 

Five Operators Were Named

The Advertising Standards Authority used a clever tactics, they used child avatars in order to test whether it would be possible to watch gambling ads. As we mentioned, it turned out that at least 43 companies didn’t follow the new guidelines and weren’t able to verify the viewers’ age.  

Most of these ads, or at least 23 were ads of five gambling companies, including Unibet, Play OJO, RedBet, Vikings Video Slot and Multilotto. 

There has been a lot of gambling advertising during and around sports events including Premier League matches which are popular with younger people. That is one of the key reasons why betting companies and their ads have been scrutinised by the ASA.

Proponents of stricter gambling regulations claim that high exposure to gambling advertisements can pose a threat later in life and make individuals more prone to problem gambling. 

However, the ASA cannot impose any fines or sanctions, they can only ban their ads and campaigns that have been accessed by children. 

The ASA Might Extend This Approach To Social Media

The ASA used analytics and complex data to create avatars and to replicate children’s browsing habits in a way that would make easy for companies to discover that their ads are accessed by children. The used avatars mimicked behaviour of younger children aged six to seven, eight to 12, as well as those of a 16-year-old. 

Furthermore, the Agency also used the profile of a supposed person whose age cannot be determined and a profile which matched the behaviour of a child and an adult that are using the same device. The period of monitoring lasted for a fortnight and there were a total of 151 instances of watching gambling ads by the created children’s avatars on a total of 11 sites. 

A high 81% of all impressions were on Vikings Video Slot ads with a total of ten ads. Most of the operators acknowledged that their ads broke the rules, but they claimed that third-parties were to blame for the breach. 

Kindred, the company that owns Unibet, stated that the ad was place without the company’s knowledge and that action breached their advertising terms and conditions. A Kindred spokesperson added that the error in the system of the third party that displayed the ad has been addressed and that the broadcast didn’t result in underage gambling. 

Companies have to ensure that all measures are taken to prevent children from being exposed to gambling ads. The ASA is considering expanding its approach so they might start creating social media accounts with child avatars and try to see if they can access gambling ads.

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