There may be many who complain about the States of America and its “overbearing regulations” but, when it comes to regulators in the area of gaming and poker, the United Kingdom might just take the cake as one of the harshest arbiters in the industry. Recently, however, the organization responsible to ensure compliance with advertising in the UK showed it can fairly rule in allowing a major online gaming and poker company to continue with a gaming sponsorship despite allegations of marketing to children.
Ads Date Back to August 2021
The ads in question were created and aired on YouTube– yes, the authority of the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) reaches into that area – in August 2021, promoting the products that 888 UK provides. 888.com enlisted the talents of a YouTube influencer Callum Airey, otherwise known as ‘Calfreezy’ on his YouTube page. A quick look at ‘Calfreezy’s’ YouTube page shows a total of 3.82 million subscribers, while the content that he provides ranges from cooking videos to doing slightly crazy things to draw in viewers, with the hope they sign on as subscribers. While he does not state what he earns from his subscribers, it is estimated that Airey is worth $1.5 million.
The videos that Airey promoted for 888.com were for its mobile app, and this is where a couple of reports came in about 888 violating the law. The reports alleged that, because Airey appeals to many viewers under the age of 18, 888 was putting their product in front of an audience that could not legally partake of their product. This is a violation of the United Kingdom’s Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising and Direct and Promotional Marketing (CAP Code), particularly Rules 16.1 and 16.3.12.
The two rules in question directly address keeping children from seeing the advertising. The CAP Code designates that the rules are for “children” 15 and under and “young persons” are age 16 or 17. CAP Code 16.1 reads that “marketing communications for gambling must be socially responsible, with particular regard to the need to protect children, young persons, and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited.” CAP Code Rule 16.3.12 reads that the rules are violated when the advertisements will “be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially be reflecting or being associated with youth culture.”
Data Proves the Reports Were Inaccurate
888.com and Airey were able to demonstrate to the ASA that the ads were not in any manner meant to appeal to those segments where the CAP Code applied. In particular, 888 presented evidence that over 75% of Airey audience was over the age of 18, which is the legal age for gaming in the UK, and showed that the videos themselves did not draw an audience that violated UK regulations. To violate the regulations, more than 25% of the audience had to be under 18; Airey presented evidence of his channel analytics that showed that, when the two 888 ads aired, only 7.5% and 6% of the viewing audience was under the age of 18, far below the threshold.
Airey and 888.com kept up with the evidence. 888 pointed out that Airey was well over the age of 18 (at 25) and therefore was not “targeting” children with his advertising. The ads that 888 and Airey used in the broadcasts also were tagged with the appropriate information for problem gaming and that gaming in the UK was restricted to those over 18. All of this evidence, along with the analytics and other information, led to the ASA dismissing the complaints against 888 and Airey.
The ASA and other gaming agencies in the UK are quite vigilant when it comes to ensuring that the gaming companies are not trying to attract young people or problem gamblers to their sites. With this decision, they also show that they can make the correct decision when there is no intent by the gaming company nor their contracted sponsored personnel to try to circumvent those rules.