The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has issued a warning to online casinos, which have created advertising campaigns that inadvertently advertise to under 18s. It’s among many other betting organisations that are making a push to prevent any further issues in this matter, as all regulators agree that gambling that appeals to young people is “unacceptable”.
This the latest installment in an ongoing narrative in the UK press about how wide-spread these adverts are. Is it really such a big issue or are they making a fuss over nothing? For us, it’s easy to believe the latter. However, it’s important that the gambling industry reigns in every now and then, and assesses itself honestly and without bias. Could online casinos do better? Let’s take a look at the facts.
A Stern Warning
To go into more detail, this warning made to online casinos was drafted thanks to various news articles in the UK media calling out online gambling advertisements as being to easily accessible by people aged 17 and under. By this, they mean the adverts appeared on websites that under 18s tended to access the most, primarily social media and video streaming sites.
Not only was the placement of these advertisements criticised, but what was used in them was brought into the limelight too. The Sunday Times in particular called out online casinos for using popular cartoon characters that greatly appeal to children. In turn, the UKGC was forced to respond to this. In their letter, they dictated that any online casino that uses images, which have “particular appeal to children or young persons” will be deemed inappropriate and banned.
Such examples included Piggy Payout, Fluffy Favourites and Pirate Princess, all of which put a particular emphasis on cutesy animals to create the slots’ sense of identity. There was also a point relating to the “freely accessible ads for play-for-free and play-for-money games,” which refers to the platform such ads are presented on and includes any third party images and graphics provided by other media.
The Difficulties Of Advertising
While the letter sounds rather stern and bureaucratic, the UKGC and associated organisations recognised the difficulties online casinos have in making creative choices when it comes to their advertising campaigns. Imposing such restrictions limits them in coming up with new and innovative ideas.
However, they argued (and we agree) that such restrictions are necessary as it keeps mobile gambling within safe parameters. Besides, we think that online casinos should use this limitation to their advantage. Creativity thrives under limitations, after all, and sometimes can produce better results.
On the other hand, it is somewhat difficult to know inherently appeals to both children and adults alike, not unless you ask every adult/child you come across. It is also integral for online casinos to use bright colours as it helps their slots stand out among others. As for the cartoons… We’re going to have to stand with the UKGC on this one.
It baffles us slightly why cartoons are so prevalent in online casinos. While we wouldn’t say they appeal to children exactly, it is odd to think that slot developers think all gamblers want to see are cutesy animals. Nevertheless, it’s a tried and tested formula that such images use to pull in more players, even if that is just a cheap marketing ploy.
Of course, this warning might not have come about had not the Sunday Times published that article. The article is far from incorrect on the fact that certain graphics and ideas put forward by online casinos could potentially appeal to an under 18. However, that is assuming that every under 18 clicks on every advert that they see and we know for a fact that kids are smarter than this.
Perhaps younger children won’t know the difference (and this could be an actual issue), but we do feel that the UK press, as usual, is exaggerating somewhat. From the tone of the article, you might believe that there’s some epidemic of underage gamblers rife across the country.
While we agree that underage gambling is definitely a problem and online casinos have a duty to employ the appropriate measures need to be put in place to prevent addiction, the figure is near-infinitesimal in comparison to the amount of addicted adults in the gambling world. We believe it’s more of a priority for the UKGC to tackle that over everything else.