Five gambling operators have been caught violating strict rules which suspend them from targeting underage audiences with online betting adverts.
Seven fake child online profiles simulating children’s online web browsing were created by the UK advertising regulator – the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) – to check on the type of advertising materials which reach underage individuals when they are online. As a result, the watchdog identified ads by 43 gambling operators which during 14-day monitoring period appeared on freely accessible online sites, including 20 YouTube channels. Such adverts also appeared on various children’s websites.
The investigation found that children as young as six have been targeted by major gambling companies on the Internet. Gambling adverts were found on websites which offer downloadable colouring-in pages, dressing-up games, traditional children stories and on online homework resource websites.
As shared by the ASA, the so-called children’s online “avatars” represented an important new technology which the regulatory body intends to also use in order to find out which companies which breached advertising code rules in other areas. The British advertising watchdog is also checking whether the investigation could be extended to websites which require a log-in, such as some social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Under the new rules which the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) introduced last year, gambling operators could face tougher regulatory action, including financial penalties, in case that they are found to be repeatedly breaking code rules.
Gambling Operators Blame Third-Party Companies for the Violations
The five brands which ASA found to have violated the UK advertising code under which gambling adverts targeting individuals under 18 years of age are prohibited are Unibet, Redbet, Vikings Video Slot, PlayOjo and Multilotto. The investigation found that a total of 23 gambling adverts appeared 151 times across 11 of the children’s website which the ASA was monitoring. On the other hand, none of the adverts which had been released by the five brands violating the advertising code appeared on YouTube channels.
According to information released by the Advertising Standards Authority, Viking Video Slot was the brand with most breaches, as it accounted for almost 50% of the adverts and 80% of the number of times a gambling advert appeared.
The most high-profile gambling brand which was found to be breaching the rules was Unibet, which was the main kit sponsor of the Aston Villa football club last season. This year, the brand appears on the club’s training kit, and the company became the first official betting partner of Warwickshire county cricket club.
As revealed by the ASA, the gambling operators did not oppose to the claims of the watchdog that they had broken the advertising code rules, but in most instances, they explained that happened because of the mistakes of third-party companies which they had hired to run their online advertising campaigns. Unibet further explained that the company did not knowingly derive revenue from under-age individuals who might have gambled on its website.