The UK gambling industry has been on the receiving end of more heavy criticism, this time from the country’s leading advertising regulator.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) say that children in the UK have been bombarded with inappropriate advertising, including gambling promotions. The ASA report that they have identified 159 adverts placed on 34 websites and in five Youtube channels that were aimed at children. According to the ASA’s rules, companies who put age-restricted promotions online are obliged to ensure that their adverts do not target underage viewers.
The ASA’s new monitoring crackdown found that the majority of adverts that broke the rules were those that come under the HFSS (High Fat Salt Sugar) category. The ASA identified over 70 such adverts, although they admitted that many of these adverts, for products including butter and nuts, though technically in breach of the rules, were unlikely to be a risk to children.
But the ASA also found that gambling brands were a major offender. The regulator identified 70 different betting promotions that had been placed on eight websites in the period between April and June this year. In addition, the ASA discovered ten different alcohol adverts from the same brand on a single website. They also identified an e-cigarette promotion.
In gathering their evidence, the ASA said that they had monitored advertisements placed on a sample of more than 50 websites and Youtube channels. They added that they were in the process of taking follow-up action to contact the advertisers who were in breach of the rules, though they did not officially name any of the websites where the adverts were found.
Speaking about the findings, the head of the ASA, Guy Parker, said that they were continuing to use technology to monitor the online advertising sector, and were determined to build a culture of zero tolerance when it came to children being able to view age-restricted advertising:
“We expect advertisers and the parties they contract with to use the sophisticated tools available to them to target their ads responsibly. This is just one part of a wider set of initiatives we’re undertaking to ensure children are protected online and we’ll report on our further work in this area in the coming months.”
The findings from the ASA come at a difficult time for the UK gambling sector. UK operators have been under fire from politicians over perceived failings in a number of areas, including marketing, and there is some trepidation in the industry about the UK government’s much hyped review of the 2005 Gambling Act, although that appears to have been pushed back for the time being.