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Gambling ad regulation - a good start, but there's much more to do

The UK’s advertising codes have been updated to prevent gambling ads targeting children. In an announcement from the Committees of Advertising Practice (the body that writes and maintains the UK’s Advertising Codes), gambling companies have been given clearer guidance to prevent them from targeting children.  

Parent Zone has been campaigning for more to be done to protect children from gambling for years, so of course, we welcome this sensible step. It’s completely unacceptable that gambling companies have worked the edges of compliance by using cartoon imagery, movie characters and other cultural references which attract young people -but in truth, it’s only the tip of a very problematic iceberg.

Despite - or perhaps because of - the fact that gambling under the age of 18 is illegal, we have seen new forms of gambling emerge which lay bare the inadequacy of current online age verification processes. According to the Gambling Commission, the number of children with gambling problems has quadrupled in the last two years. Shockingly, around 450,000 under 11 - 16-year-old’s bet regularly. Our report last year into skin gambling - in which young gamers use character upgrades as currency -  showed that 29% of young people thought that it was a ‘big problem’.

So the steps announced today to prevent advertisers targeting children are welcome. But the truth is that they are a drop in the ocean. It’s time for a proper review of gambling, including new and emerging forms which put children at risk.

We are calling for regulation to recognise loot boxes as a form of gambling - we think they prime very young children to gamble. We want the regulator to do more to uphold existing regulation to prevent the proliferation of skin gambling sites. We need payment providers to step in to prevent children from being exploited through unregulated gambling sites - and we need the gaming industry to recognise that they have a problem.

With an internet safety white paper due out in the next few weeks, we have an opportunity to tackle the online aspects of this growing problem, and it’s vital that we take it.  It’s important that gambling companies have clear guidance about not targeting children - but it’s even more important that we take proper steps now to prevent further harm.