Five gambling operators have been identified and sanctioned by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) after being found to be breaching strict UK advertising codes.
The investigation marks a new phase in ASA policy with technology now playing a vital role in the identification of adverts. The new approach is part of wider efforts to ensure action can be taken against irresponsible ads without the need for members of the public to raise a complaint.
Over a two week period last year, the ASA identified 43 different gambling operators that displayed advertisements across websites geared towards under-18s.
Five of those gambling operators, NetEnt Product Ltd (Vikings Video Slot), Evoke Gaming Ltd (RedBet), Multilotto UK Ltd, Platinum Gaming Ltd (Unibet) and Skill On Net Ltd (PlayOjo), were found to be in contravention of strict advertising rules set out by the ASA which prohibits gambling ads being targeted at under-18s.
As part of the investigation, the ASA rolled out new monitoring technology in the form of child ‘avatars’, collecting data on the 10,754 times when ads were served to the child avatars.
Advertisements were served to children on eleven of the websites monitored by the ASA, with the avatars being able to view 23 individual gambling adverts. These ads were viewed combined total of 151 times, accounting for 1.40% of the total ad impressions.
It was found that Vikings Video Slot was responsible for 81 per cent of the 151 ad impressions, with ten advertisements viewed 122 times.
ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker said: “Online ads are subject to the same strict rules that apply elsewhere and this important new monitoring capability delivers on our commitment to having more impact online.
“It’s already allowed us to spot a problem with a small number of gambling operators and take quick and effective action to ensure children are protected from irresponsibly-targeted gambling ads.
“We’re already looking at expanding this work, as well as exploring how other new technologies can help us protect the public.”
Since the investigation, all operators have accepted responsibility for breaking advertising rules. The majority of instances reported in the investigation arose due to errors by third-party companies who rolled out campaigns on behalf of the operators.
The operators have been instructed by the advertising regulator to immediately address the issues by reviewing their online ads, ensuring that they are not served to web users aged below 18 years of age through the selection of media or context in which they appear and to put in place measures to ensure this does not happen again.