UK’s Advertising Authority Bans Betting Ad on Mario Kart Game

Young gamer wearing headphones and staring at screen

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a betting ad brand for targeting children in an app.

Under-18s targeted

The betting brand in question is bookmaker William Hill. The ad, Vegas games, is reported to have appeared in an app called New Mario Kart 8 Trick, The Drum reports.

According to the report, the betting ad was aimed at under-18s, while the app had a PEGI rating 3, which means suitable for all ages. However, William Hill stated that its Mario Kart brand is not targeted at children. Instead, it claimed that in 2017, 86 percent of players were over the age of 18.

ASA disagreed, saying that “the ad must not be used again without further, specific targeting to minimize the likelihood of under-18s being exposed to it.”

William Hill said that it would “never knowingly target children” or those under the age of 18. It added that it uses Google’s Universal App Campaign, which allows little control over ad placements. However, it is reported that Google replied that William Hill could have put measures in place to exclude its ads on apps that may attract an under-18 audience, but failed to do so.

In May, the ASA banned three fairytale games on a gambling website after it was perceived that they would appeal to children. The games in question had images of a wolf, a pixie, and a fairy in a forest.

Last October, the Gambling Commission, the ASA, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), and the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) sent a joint letter to over 450 online gambling operators asking them to remove gambling ads that may appeal to those under the age of 18.

Loot box ban

The latest trend in the gaming sector is loot boxes. Several jurisdictions have taken steps to ban them, fearing that they promote online gambling, particularly to a younger audience.

In April, the Dutch Gambling Authority (DGA) was the first to investigate ten popular games, of which it found that four had violated Dutch gambling laws. The investigation found that loot boxes were being awarded to players, who could then sell them for money via third-party sites.

Shortly afterward, the Belgium Gaming Commission (BGC) declared that loot boxes in online games were illegal and should be removed.

Notably, though, the CEO of Electronic Arts (EA) doesn’t consider loot boxes as gambling because they don’t provide a way for players to cash out virtual money into real currency. France’s gambling regulator is of the same opinion, and in July stated that loot boxes aren’t considered as gambling.

While some are in agreement and others are not, young children are playing online games, which means at some point they are going to come into contact with gambling ads. Consequently, it’s not just up to regulators to ensure that children aren’t exposed to online gambling, but the game operators themselves need to do more to safeguard and prevent children from taking an interest in betting.

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