The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled against two gambling operators - ProgressPlay (t/a m88.com) and TGP Europe - in respect of games advertised on their websites which were deemed to be of particular appeal to children. The ASA’s rulings are the first rulings of this kind since the regulator, together with the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the Gambling Commission and the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), published an industry-wide letter back in October 2017 calling on all licensed operators to remove any adverts that were “freely accessible” and likely to be of particular appeal to children.

Ruling against ProgressPlay Ltd (t/a m88.com)

Three games were advertised on www.m88.com: ‘Fairytale Legends Red Riding Hood’, ‘Fairytale Legends Hansel and Gretel’ and ‘Fairies Forest’. The first featured an animated image of a wolf and a pixie, the second an animated image of a forest, and the last an animated image of a fairy in a forest.

Fairer Gambling (a campaign group for fairness in gambling) challenged whether the ads were likely to be of particular appeal to children. In response to the complaint ProgressPlay removed the games’ demo mode availability such that they were only accessible after members logged into their account. Whilst the ASA welcomed this action, as the ads appeared on unrestricted parts of the websites at the time they were viewed by Fairer Gambling, the ASA upheld the complaint on the grounds that it breached rules 16.1, 16.3 and 16.3.12 of the CAP Code. In respect of all three the ASA found that, because the games were advertised as being based on popular fairy-tales, they were likely to be of particular appeal to children. They also took particular issue with the inclusion of the animated characters in the first and last (they held that fairies were particularly likely to appeal to children in general and that the wolf animation resembled similar characters from films/TV programmes aimed at under 18s).

The full ruling can be found here.

Ruling against TGP Europe Ltd

The following games were advertised on www.fun88.co.uk and www.letou.co.uk:

  1. ‘Feathered frenzy slot’ – this featured an animated image of two birds;
  2. ‘DRAGON’S MYTH’ - this featured an animated image of a young looking girl and a dragon;
  3. ‘Faeries Fortune’ – this featured an animated image of a pixie;
  4. ‘Castle BUILDER’ - this featured an animated image of a castle, a princess and three men;
  5. ‘Robyn’ – this featured an animated image of a young looking girl with long blonde hair;
  6. ‘SANTA PAWS’ - this featured an animated image of a polar bear wearing a Santa hat, a cub polar bear, two penguins and a rabbit;
  7. ‘Secret Santa Online Slot’ - this featured an image of a fireplace with Christmas decorations; and
  8. ‘SANTA’S WILD RIDE’ - this featured a badge in the shape of shield and was coloured in a dark red tone with a silver outline.

Fairer Gambling challenged whether the ads were likely to be of particular appeal to children. As with the ProgressPlay case, visitors to the websites can no longer play the games in demo mode without logging in (in fact TGP had removed the games before it received the complaint), however, the ASA found that the ads appeared on unrestricted parts of the websites at the time Fairer Gambling had seen them.

The ASA upheld the complaints in respect of (a), (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f), finding them in breach of rules 16.1, 16.3 and 16.3.12 of the CAP Code. In these adverts the ASA found that many of the characters’ facial features and body shapes were highly stylised and disproportionate, making them resemble characters from films/TV programmes that were targeted at under-18s.

TGP argued that the use of Santa Claus did not automatically make an advert of greater appeal to children than to adults. The ASA appeared to agree with them in respect of (f), stating that it “considered that Santa Claus would have appeal to both children and adults, but that it was crucial that any such association with the fictional character in a gambling ad did not have particular appeal to under-18s”. They found this to be the case in respect of (f) on the basis that it included animations of a rabbit, cub bear and penguins which were all depicted in an innocent, cute and cuddly manner. The regulator did not uphold the complaints in respect of (g) and (h) however. The ASA found that both included generic content which did not associate gambling with youth culture. Furthermore, in respect of (g), they held that the concept of secret Santa was actually much more associated with adults than under-18s.

The full ruling can be found here.