In the gambling industry, there are many rules and regulations in place to make sure that casino operators are acting in a responsible and legal way. Whilst sometimes it can feel like these rules are simply in place to demonize gamblers and stop our fun, we need to remember that they are actually there keep us safe when we play both online and offline.
Furthermore, the regulations serve to protect the more vulnerable casino users among us. Any gambler will tell you how dangerous playing at an online casino can become, if you fail to carefully consider how the hobby is affecting your life. One of the most highly regulated areas of mobile gambling is advertising, as this reaches a wide audience and influences a lot of people.
Today, casino operators have been asked by the a joint group of regulators, including the Gambling Commission and the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority), to remove any adverts that may appeal to underage players. In an open letter, the group stated that these adverts are putting children at risk of developing gambling problems. This was backed up by the fact that around 450,000 children gamble on a weekly basis, of which around 9,000 could be described as ‘problem gamblers.’
The open letter, which was published on the 20th of October, states that casino operators should amend or remove immediately any ads on their websites or in third party media that are likely to appeal particularly to people aged 17 or younger and that are ‘freely accessible.’ In this case, freely accessible means adverts, which may be found on other websites such as Facebook and which can be seen by people of all ages.
The letter argued that advertisements of this kind were breaching the conditions of the UKGC licensing agreement that states that gambling operators are required to advertise responsibly with particular regard to the protection of under 18’s and other who may be vulnerable to being exploited by gambling advertising.
Four seperate regulatory bodies signed the letter: the Gambling Comission (UKGC), the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Remote Gambling Association (RGA). The letter was sent out to over 450 UK gambling operators and while it stated that these bodies were writing to ‘advise’ the casinos, it was made very clear that there would be serious ramifications should they fail to comply.
In the final lines of the letter, the regulators warned that ‘if gambling operators cannot or will not bring their advertising into line with the code, the CAP Compliance team has various sanctions available to it and will consider applying these if we continue to see gambling ads that have particular appeal to under 18s.’
The Offending Adverts
Whilst no single advertisement was explicitly mentioned within the open letter, it did give examples of what kind of thing would be deemed unacceptable. They stated that ‘particular colours, cartoons and comic book images, animals, child and youth-orientated references are likely to enhance appeal to under-18s,’ as well as calling out games such as Fluffy Favourites, Jack and the Beanstalk, Piggy Payout and Pirate Princess.
If you’re a regular slots player, you will probably be all too familiar with these sorts of titles. Increasingly, slots are moving away from their traditional backgrounds and featuring graphics and characters that wouldn’t look out of place in Disney and Pixar animations.
Of course, for responsible gamblers, designs like these simply add to the fun of the slot, but we should understand that they definitely must seem appealing to children. Furthermore, these games aren’t cheap. Whilst many sites offer free play modes, part of the problem is that these games can cost up to well over £500 per spin when played for real money, effectively making the free play mode a sales-pitch for young people to start gambling.
Last year, the United Kingdom Gambling Commission reported that close to half a million children gamble on a weekly basis and around 9,000 of those could be considered to be ‘problem gamblers.’ Therefore, whilst this crackdown on advertisements may be considered a hindrance to operators trying to persuade new players to sign up. This is a more responsible attitude to marketing that could do wonders for the reputation of online casinos, which are often put under severe scrutiny and subject to bad press.