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Monopoly-themed ad draws ire of regulator

Tue, May 7, 12:23pm by Staff Writer

Gambling regulators have a Monopoly-themed online casino game in their sights after the board game’s familiar cartoon mascot – Rich Uncle Pennybags – could appeal to children.

The Guardian is reporting that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found the ad, which appeared on the Mirror Online website in the United Kingdom, breached its code, which says that gambling ads must not be designed to appeal to young people.

The ban comes amid mounting concern about the exposure of children to gambling, through channels including television ads, football shirt sponsorship, computer games, apps and social media.

The UK Gambling Commission released an audit last year that revealed that the number of problem gamblers aged 11 to 16 years of age had risen significantly to 55,000 over two years, prompting concern over a “generational scandal”.

The ASA has yet to publish its ruling, but the Guardian understands that the regulator has told Entertaining Play, the Gibraltar-based company behind the game, that it must not appear again.

A report last year revealed that British World Cup viewers were exposed to almost 90 minutes of betting adverts during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, prompting claims that children were bombarded with messages encouraging them to gamble.

From the beginning of the tournament to England’s semi-final clash with Croatia, ITV carried more than eight and a half hours of advertisements, of which just under an hour and a half were advertising betting.

That is equivalent to 17 per cent of World Cup ad breaks, or roughly one minute in every six, with the 172 betting spots combined lasting nearly the length of a football match.

Bookmakers and online casino companies enjoyed one and a half times as much screen time as alcohol firms and almost four times that of fast food outlets.

Likeness to children’s cartoon a factor in decision

A government review of gambling regulation shied away from suggesting curbs on gambling adverts, citing insufficient evidence that adverts for betting were causing harm to children and vulnerable people.

The Right Rev Dr Alan Smith, bishop of St Albans, welcomed the ruling regarding the Monopoly-themed game, saying the advert was “yet more evidence” that gambling companies are targeting children.

“Monopoly is beloved by young people and there was no doubt that a smiling cartoon character, which is the logo of this family board game, will appeal to children.”

“Board games should be allowed to remain board games and must be off-limits to gambling companies pushing boundaries in order to normalize highly addictive casino games,” Smith said.

“I hope other companies that stoop to these tactics take note and remove similar adverts,” he added.

Entertaining Play, whose parent company, Gamesys, also manage gambling products using Richard Branson’s Virgin brand, argued that the character of Mr Monopoly, or Rich Uncle Pennybags, was not likely to be attractive to children.

It said the character was dressed in adult attire and “did not possess exaggerated feature and did not mimic any style of cartoon character seen in current children’s programming.”

The company added that the colours used in the ad were not “garish or overly vibrant and did not draw inspiration from youth culture” and that it had taken steps to ensure it was only targeted at over-18s.

Mirror Online told the ASA it did not believe the ad would appeal to children and included a label reading 18+.

But the ASA said there was no way to ensure under-18s would not be exposed to the ad and that it did not comply with the code.

“We considered that Monopoly was a family game generally played by or with children, and that under-18s would therefore recognise and find the ad’s reference to it appealing,” it said.

“In addition, the ad featured a prominent image of the Mr Monopoly character, which had exaggerated features reminiscent of a children’s carton, which meant the image would also be appealing to under-18s.”

“Taking account of the ad as a whole, we considered that the use of the Monopoly logo and the depiction of the Mr Monopoly character meant that the ad was likely to appeal more to under-18s than to over-18s.”

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