Online Gambling Ads Picked Up by Tech That Simulates Kids’ Browsing Habits

Posted on: April 4, 2019, 01:31h. 

Last updated on: April 4, 2019, 01:31h.

Five online gaming firms have been exposed by the UK advertising watchdog for potentially advertising gambling to minors on the web, The Guardian reports. The Advertising Standards Authority used fake online avatars that mimic the browsing habits of children in a bid to discover the types of ads kids are being exposed to when they surf the internet.

Online gambling ads
Ads for NetEnt’s Vikings Video Slot — among other online gaming products — were popping up on way too many kids’ sites, according to the ASA. Gambling companies largely blamed mistakes by third-party companies. (Image: NetEnt)

It’s not good. Over a two-week period, the ASA’s avatars encountered 23 gambling ads, appearing 151 times across 11 children’s websites. The worst offender was Vikings Video Slot — a game created by NetEnt and available at numerous different online casinos. The most high-profile offender was Unibet, which is owned by the Kindred Group.

Also named were Redbet and Multilotto, as well as PlayOjo — a site that advertises itself as “the UK’s fairest online casino.”

ASA’s New Weapon

The ASA told The Guardian that technology that simulates browsing by age group had become an important new weapon in its fight against illegal internet advertising and it will also be used to detect companies that flout regulations on marketing junk food and alcohol.

The watchdog said in most cases the operators had admitted they had broken the rules but blamed third-party companies that had been hired to run their online marketing campaigns.

The advert was served by a third party without the control or knowledge of Kindred/Unibet and in breach of the contractual terms in place,” Alexander Westrell, the group head of communications at Kindred told The Guardian. “The advert was served due to a fault in that third party’s systems and the fault has been addressed. The advert did not lead to under-18 gambling.”

Westrell emphasized that his company does not accept business from anyone under 18.

80 Percent of Ad Spend Goes Online

Online advertising now accounts for 80 percent the UK gambling industry’s marketing spend, according to new research for GambleAware, the country’s leading independent gambling charity.

Recent debate in the UK has centered around the proliferation of gambling advertising on television, particularly around high-profile sporting events. This has led operators to negotiate to a self-imposed, industry-wide ban, which will come into force later this year.

But according to new research by the country’s leading independent gambling charity, GambleAware, online advertising now accounts for 80 percent the UK gambling industry’s marketing spend, dwarfing TV spend.

“The … analysis shows that much more attention needs to be payed to the extent of gambling-related marketing online, and that internet companies and social media platforms must share in the responsibility to protect children, and to generally raise awareness of the nature of gambling, associated risks of harm, and where to go for help and advice if it is needed,” said GambleAware in an official statement.