The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has found that four gambling operators in the UK have been advertising on websites frequented by minors.

A total of 70 online gambling ads appeared on eight websites, with operators’ content more visible to children than other age-restricted industries such as alcohol. 

Despite being found to go against the country’s advertising regulations, the operators have not been named – though they will be if they are found to persist. 

The ASA monitored various websites over a three-month period to find the issues that they did. 

Gambling operators will be told to get their act together 

Across all industries, the ASA found a total of 159 ads to flout its rules related to age-restricted content. 35 advertisers were found to be non-compliant, advertising across 34 websites and five YouTube channels with disproportionately large audiences of children. 

Gambling ads were much more common than alcohol, of which 10 non-compliant ads belonged to, as well as tobacco – which had just one. 

Though the ASA has a zero-tolerance policy towards advertising of this kind, it has chosen not to mention which operators have been found to ignore their rules. Instead, they will be told to adopt better practices. If they continue to ignore the guidelines they have to stick by, then they will face tougher action. 

Doing more to try and protect minors 

ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker had the following to say about encouraging responsible advertising and protecting youngsters online. 

“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. 

“We expect advertisers and the parties they contract with to use the sophisticated tools available to them to target their ads responsibly.” 

New BGC code to come into force from the beginning of October 

On Thursday, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) unveiled the measures listed within the Sixth Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising. This code includes multiple guidelines that operators will need to adhere to, in order to protect under-18s from exposure to gambling ads. 

All sponsored or paid for ads on social media will only be allowed to target users aged 25 or above – unless the site can prove that its ads can be targeted directly and exclusively at individuals above the age of 18. 

Gambling ads in search engines will also need to be made clear that they are intended for people who are above the legal age for gambling in the UK. Moreover, they will need to include responsible gambling messages. 

On Twitter, all BGC members will also be obliged to regularly send responsible gambling messages through their feed. 

The Sixth Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising will come into effect from 1st October.