When the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) set out recently to find out whether or not online gambling operators were targeting children with their online ads, they used a unique research method. For all intents and purposes, the ASA set a trap by using avatars (or online profiles) that were set up to look like and browse like children. What they found in their two-week investigation was an industry that regularly targets children, mainly through third-party advertising platforms.
Over the course of the two-week investigation, the ASA found that five online gambling operators were, inadvertently, advertising their wares on websites and YouTube channels that are aimed children. The firms named in the investigation include, Vikings Video Slot, Redbet, Multilotto, Unibet and PlayOjo. According to investigators, the five companies’ ads appeared more than 100 times across 11 websites aimed at children over the course of their investigation, though none actually violated YouTube’s terms of service.
Alexander Westrell, the group head of communications at Kindred explained his company’s presence in the report to the UK Guardian saying, he advert was served by a third party without the control or knowledge of Kindred/Unibet and in breach of the contractual terms in place. 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.”
He went on to point out that the company did not earn any money from advertising to the child-like avatars.
All of the parties named in the investigation said that the advertisements were the result of third-party advertising platforms and that they were not intentionally targeting children. As of this writing, there have been no fines or other punishments levied as a result of the investigation.