UK Regulator Flags 70 Gambling Ads for Breaching Age Restriction Rules

  • ASA conducted a three-month online monitoring sweep of ads that should be age restricted
  • 70 of all 159 flagged ads came from four gambling operators and appeared on eight websites
  • UK watchdog is contacting those found to be in breach to ensure the removal of online adverts
  • All offending advertisers must review and amend their practices to prevent future violations
eighteen plus sign in yellow against black background
UK regulator the ASA has identified 70 gambling adverts that appeared in children’s media, breaching age restriction rules. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Protecting underage audiences

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has revealed that a significant portion of adverts that breached age restriction rules related to gambling products. The ads watchdog released findings on August 26 from its “latest online monitoring sweep” of age-restricted advertisements that were visible across children’s digital media.

Over a three-month period, the ASA monitored ads that were displayed across 50 different YouTube channels and websites with a “disproportionately high child audience”. It flagged a total of 159 ads as being in violation of age restriction rules. These were placed by 35 advertisers across five YouTube channels and 34 websites.

70 ads coming from four different gambling operators

Gambling adverts were prevalent, with the ASA uncovering 70 ads coming from four different gambling operators and appearing across eight websites.

The monitoring sweep made up the first phase of a year-long project that saw the ASA check adverts related to gambling, tobacco and e-cigarettes, alcohol, weight loss products, and food and beverages that are high in fat, salt, or sugar (HFSS).

Any party that is advertising within an industry that has age restrictions in the UK is required to ensure that children do not have exposure to their messages.

Zero-tolerance approach

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said of the findings: “The ASA is using technology to proactively monitor online ads to help build a culture of zero tolerance for age-restricted ads appearing on websites aimed at children.”

As a follow-up, the UK regulator has contacted the advertisers it found breaching the Advertising Code in its latest sweep so that all the offending ads are taken down. It has also warned them to rethink their current advertising practices to avoid future rule violations. Similar online monitoring sweeps by the ASA are set to take place every quarter for the next year. 

regulator has contacted the advertisers it found breaching the Advertising Code

The advertising authority expects all advertisers and contract partners to make sure they are responsibly targeting ads. It is also undertaking a number of other initiatives in the next few months to see that there are proper online protections in place for children.

The ASA is currently executing its More Impact Online five-year strategy, which also looks at “harnessing innovative monitoring technology […] to better protect children by acting at scale and speed to tackle ads which are found to be targeted irresponsibly.”

Gaming industry’s commitment

The UK Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) trade association announced through its Action Plan in May that leaders in the industry are committed to improving the safeguards surrounding gambling advertising. 

The BGC has set up an industry working group to create, alongside media partners and advertising bodies, new ad tech solutions to block minors from viewing online gambling ads.

Additional measures in the UK to protect children from pro-gambling messages include a push to ban gambling operators from sponsoring soccer teams’ shirts.