The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned gambling advertisements from appearing in the I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here smartphone app.
The app allowed viewers to vote for their favourite celebrity and save them from trials or eviction but it was criticised last November for allowing Tombola, an online casino and sports betting operator, to sponsor it, running ads with phrases “A chance to win a share of £250,000 for free” when users signed up to vote on the show.
According to The Guardian, the show was watched by more than one million children under the age of 18, many of whom used the app to vote but were able to click through to slot games and other activities. In addition, other advertisements featured on the app includes video clips with phrases such as “Play our slot games” and “Play our scratchcard games”.
ITV Broadcasting, the publisher of the app, was heavily criticised for the advertisements but insisted that the show was shown after the 9 PM watershed due to age-inappropriate content and that the programme wasn’t targeted to viewers under the age of 18. The broadcaster also claimed that the main purpose of the app was to allow viewers to vote, not promote gambling.
Tombola, who became the official sponsor of the show back in 2017 after securing a multi-million-pound deal that covered the show, its spin-off and all digital content, argued that the ads were part of its wider sponsorship of the reality show. The firm also claimed that ITV has worked with them to ensure the ads were “in line” with the show’s viewership.
The firm also stated that the ads had “18+” tags on them and that the language used in the advertisements were “adult” in tone.
However, the ASA launched an investigation to assess whether the ads had breached the UK code by exposing gambling advertisements to underage viewers. The firm found that, despite not directly targeting under-18s, the app, which was downloaded over one million times, still appealed to underage fans of the show.
The ASA also found that the app lacked mechanisms allowing users to block advertisements from being shown to particular age groups. This eventually led them to ban Tombola from using gambling advertisements within the app.
The ASA said: “We considered Tombola Arcade should not have used the app to deliver gambling ads to consumers. We therefore considered the advertiser had not taken sufficient care, through the selection of media, to ensure that the ads were directed at an audience aged 18 and over so as to minimise under-18s’ exposure to them.”
Tom Watson, Labour’s Deputy Leader, praised the ban, stating: “Gambling ads should not be on app that will clearly be used by kids. It’s simple.”
Meanwhile, Marc Etches, the Chief Executive of GambleAware, said in a statement: “Thankfully, on this occasion, common sense has prevailed and the advert has been removed. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and with 55,000 11 to 16-year-olds now classed as problem gamblers, it is clear more needs to be done to address this serious public health issue.”
The news comes just months after a public outcry over the number of gambling advertisements airing during live sports games, particularly during last year’s World Cup. Casino and betting operators were accused of targeting the vulnerable and children by airing ads during sports games.
The criticism eventually led several gambling operators to agree to a ban on adverts during sports games at the end of 2018, with plans to enact the ban in early 2019.