The British Labour Party’s second in command has once again flagged unacceptable gambling practices – this time the amount of gambling adverts shown on the app for reality TV show, I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.
Television channel ITV, which hosts the programme, has come under fire from deputy leader Tom Watson, due to the amount of children that use the app.
Tombola under fire
With one media agency estimating the numbers of under-18 viewers at close to 1m per episode during the last series, questions are being asked why Tombola, the online bingo, casino and slots company, is allowed to advertise displays that tempt viewers to win a share of the cash for free.
Adverts include wording such as “A chance to win a share of £250,000 for free” when users sign up to vote on the TV show.
“Adverts make betting seem fun”
According to Watson, in the light of a report by the Gambling Commission that found the numbers of children who gambled had climbed to 55,000, it was “obviously wrong” for a gambling company to sponsor a popular under-18s app.
The app itself allows viewers to vote on the programme, running for more than a decade on ITV, and the most watched show of 2018 outside the World Cup with a peak audience of 11.9m. It is estimated that the app has been downloaded over a million times.
Watson said: “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.
“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.”
His comments come after the recent rise in the number of young people with gambling problems.
Marc Etches, 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.
“It is shocking that 55,000 11 to 16 year olds are problem gamblers. Gambling has become a public health issue in Britain and all of us, including broadcasters, share the responsibility to prevent gambling-related harms generally, and to protect children especially.”
ITV responded: “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.”
While I’m A Celebrity is not specifically targeted at children and begins after the 9pm watershed, it is still incredibly popular with the youth audience and parents have commented to newspapers such as The Guardian on how their children are signing up to Tombola’s site, after thinking that this was required to vote.
Tombola does make it clear in its adverts that the site is for over-18s only.
The Advertising Standards Authority has previously upheld a complaint against a mobile phone app, targeted at all ages, because it featured a gambling advert seen by children under 10.