Britain’s betting industry faces its biggest crackdown on child gambling after regulators demanded that operators pull hundreds of casino games, that contain graphics and images that are likely to be attractive to minors, from their websites.
Regulators said the “unacceptable” ads and third-party media, should be “immediately” removed or amended adding that this particularly applied to adverts for free and pay-to-play games.
In a joint letter, the regulators said under-18s and other vulnerable people should be protected from exploitation.
The Gambling Commission, the Advertising Standards Authority, the Committee of Advertising Practice, and the Remote Gambling Association said companies needed to advertise responsibly.
Under the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) code, gambling activities must not be advertised in a way that could appeal to the under-18s.
Experts say About 450,000 children are gambling in England and Wales every week, more than those who smoke or take drugs, and there is mounting concern of a generation of young people becoming hooked on betting games.
“The use of particular colours, cartoon and comic book images, animals, child- and youth-orientated references and names of games such as ‘Piggy Payout’, ‘Fluffy Favourites’, ‘Pirate Princess’ and ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ are likely, alone or in combination, to enhance appeal to under 18s,” the letter sent to more than 450 online gambling operators says.
The letter warned that those who failed to adhere to Advertising Standards Authority guidelines could face sanctions.
It follows an investigation by the Sunday Times that found betting sites were using cartoons and characters including Peter Pan and Jack and the Beanstalk.
Tim Miller, executive director at the Gambling Commission, said new technology brought “opportunities but also new risks”.
“Our rules require strong age-verification checks to prevent underage betting. Where businesses fail to protect vulnerable people, especially children, we have and will continue to take firm action,”he added.