Broadcaster ITV has come under fire after thousands of underage children are “bombarded” with gambling advertisements on the new I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here app.
The app, which has been downloaded over one million times, is sponsored by gambling company Tombola Arcade, an online bingo, casino and slots site.
It’s the most popular method by which viewers of the reality television show can vote for their favourite contestant.
According to The Guardian, when users sign up to vote via the app, it displays adverts for Tombola Arcade that features phrases such as “A chance to win a share of £250,000 for free”.
Clicking the ad will take users to the gambling company’s website where they can download the smartphone app or register and play casino games.
The ad sparked complaints on social media. One user named Paloma De Paz revealed that her 13-year-old downloaded the Tombola Arcade app because he believed he had to sign up to the company’s site to be able to vote on the reality show.
De Paz wrote: “I’m a Celebrity is sponsored by Tombola. My 13-year-old son asked about gambling 2 days ago because of that. He got app so can vote & kept being took to reg for Tombola, he thought he had to reg for Tombola to be able to vote in I’m a celebrity so told me.”
#VictoriaLive I’m a Celebrity is sponsored by Tombola. My 13 year old son asked about gambling 2 days ago because of that. He got app so can vote & kept being took to reg for Tombola, he thought he had to reg for Tombola to be able to vote in I’m a celebrity so told me.
— Paloma De Paz ♿ (@Pazatodos2017) 21 November 2018
Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson said it was “obviously wrong” that Tambola Arcade was allowed to sponsor the app that under-18s use.
He said in a statement: “It is obviously wrong that non-age-verified apps can bombard young people, who are simply trying to vote on a TV show, with gambling adverts.
“The ads are near impossible to navigate around and make gambling seem risk-free and fun.”
He continued: “Operators, broadcasters and the government need to wake up to this crisis and start acting more responsibly. They must ensure adverts on social media cannot be targeted at young and vulnerable people.”
Marc Etches, the Chief Executive of GambleAware, said: “Frankly, it is completely unacceptable that children are exposed to gambling in this way. The combination of gambling marketing and a blurring of the lines between computer games and gambling are all contributing to the normalisation of gambling for children.
ITV responded to the criticism, saying: “The I’m A Celebrity sponsorship is fully compliant with Ofcom rules on programme sponsorship and the broadcast committee on advertising practice (BCAP) code rules on content and scheduling.”
The reality show, which is the most watched television show of 2018 excluding the World Cup, doesn’t specifically target children and actually begins after the 9 pm watershed period.
The news comes after an audit by the UK Gambling Commission found that the number of children with gambling problems had quadrupled over the last two years to 55,000. The Commission’s audit also discovered that an additional 70,000 children were at risk and around 450,000 children bet regularly.