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Gambling firms targeting ads at child-friendly websites, ASA finds

Gambling operators broke rules by targeting child-friendly websites with 70 betting ads between April and June this year, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has uncovered.

The research was carried out as part of the watchdog’s quarterly “online monitoring sweep”, which looked for examples of online ads for gambling, alcohol, e-cigarettes, tobacco, slimming products and foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS products).

Alarmingly, it found four gambling operators breached the Advertising Code by placing betting adverts on eight websites that are either aimed at children or attract a high child audience.

The research follows a warning from GambleAware that gambling ads post a threat to young people’s wellbeing.

The report also revealed that ads for HFSS products appeared on 24 children’s sites and five children’s YouTube channels during the same period, while 10 alcohol ads and one for e-cigarettes were also found on child-friendly sites or YouTube channels. In total, 159 age-restricted ads, from 35 advertisers, broke the rules.

Obesity has been a focal point throughout the pandemic, with the UK government launching a campaign following discoveries that excess weight can increase the risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19.

Guy Parker, the Advertising Standards Authority’s Chief Executive, said: “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 ASA isn’t the only organisation seeking to crack down on advertising, with the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) today announcing tough new measures to prevent under 18s from seeing gambling ads online.

Among the new regulations, BGC members must ensure that gambling ads appearing on search engines are “clear that they are for those aged 18 and over”. Other practices include the addition of frequent Twitter posts promoting responsible gambling messages.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, said members have a “zero tolerance attitude” to underage betting, adding that it was “vital” for internet platforms to honour the responsibility to protect people online.

eSports gambling ads on Twitter, in particular, have been scrutinised by experts recently, with recent research from the University of Bristol revealing that 74 per cent of eSports betting ads broke advertising regulations.

The ASA has since written to eSports operators to reiterate the advertising code.

For more help in combating gambling harm, Parent Zone and GambleAware have created free, downloadable resources that include understanding the gambling-like risks that come with playing online games, plus a resource pack to help young people stay on top of their finances.

Image: Monkey Business/stock.adobe.com


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