ASA upholds complaints against gambling operators over “child-like” graphic content

Two recent Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rulings involving gambling advertisements, which featured “child-like” graphic content, have caught the attention of London licensing, gaming and regulatory solicitors Joelson.

On Wednesday 30 May 2018, the ASA published details of its ruling against TGP Europe Ltd, which had received a complaint from Fairer Gambling about ads featured on its gambling websites, www.fun88.co.uk and www.letou.co.uk.

The complaint related to various games featuring graphical content, which Fairer Gambling argued could appeal to children or under-18s. These included a game called DRAGON’S MYTH, which featured an animated image of a young girl and a dragon, another named Faeries Fortune, which featured an animation depicting a pixie, and SANTA PAWS – a Christmas-themed game which featured several cartoon animals.

The ads were challenged on the grounds that they were in breach of the CAP Code, which stipulates that gambling ads must not be of ‘particular appeal’ to children or young persons.

In response, TGP argued that, in the case of DRAGON’S MYTH, themes of castles and dragons were popular among adults, due to the recent success of adult-themed television shows. The operator added that it felt the concept of Santa Claus was not automatically of greater appeal to children than to adults – and that each of the advertised games had previously been removed from its websites during a 2017 review, before the new complaint had been received.

Nevertheless, the ASA noted that the ads in question had still been visible on ‘unrestricted’ areas of the two websites. It found that both the DRAGON’S MYTH and Faeries Fortune games were both “likely to appeal more strongly to under-18s than to over-18s” due to the hyper-stylised nature of their cartoon-like images and various perceived references to youth culture.

In the case of SANTA PAWS, the complaint was also upheld due to the “cute and cuddly manner” in which the animals had been depicted – which the ASA described as “child-like.”

However, of the eight individual complaints made against TGP Europe Ltd, two were not upheld on grounds that they “did not feature animated images that were likely to be of particular appeal to under-18s.”

Following a similar theme, another ruling delivered by the ASA saw a very similar complaint upheld relating to fairy tale-themed games operated by ProgressPlay Ltd t/a www.m88.com.

In this case, ProgressPlay’s ads for two of its Fairytale Legends games – Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel – received a complaint from Fairer Gambling relating to their animated images of wolves, pixies and forests. Meanwhile, a third game known as Fairies Forest was also criticised over its pixie-like animations.

Following the complaint, ProgressPlay amended its website so that the games – which were previously available in ‘demo’ mode – could only be played by logged-in customers who had been age verified. It also told the ASA that it had excluded any ‘unsuitable’ images of fairies and other characters.

It also stated that the games – which were produced by a third-party software provider – appeared to be available to play on other gambling operators’ websites.

In its assessment, the ASA welcomed the operator’s action in attempting to resolve the issue, but upheld the complaint amid concerns that all of the graphics flagged-up by Fairer Gambling were likely to appeal to children familiar with fairy tales, who might be attracted to the cartoonish visuals.

These rulings demonstrate that responsible gambling issues – such as running ads which run the risk of appealing to children – will always be treated very seriously by the ASA.

Richard Williams, Joint Head of Joelson’s Gambling Team, said “It’s clear that operators and their compliance teams must monitor games for images which might be child friendly and raise concerns in instances where games developers offer these games to them for the UK market.

“If any casino game images (including game tiles, banners and other adverts) could appeal to children, it makes sense to ensure that these are only visible to logged-in (and therefore age-verified) customers and that they are not available to play by on demo mode.

“Care also needs to be taken to ensure that these games are not marketed externally to children (e.g. on social media, or via email or banner adverts). However, I appreciate that it’s difficult to know where to draw the line, so these are not likely to be the last ASA rulings on this issue.”

If you require advice on any of the issues raised above, please contact the team at London licensing, gaming and regulatory solicitors Joelson.

Richard Williams

Richard Williams

Partner – Joint-Head of Licensing, Gaming & Regulatory

+44 (0) 20 7307 2105

richard.w@joelsonlaw.com

Connect with Richard

This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.