The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has warned Kindred Group-owned 32Red after two paid ads for a game described as “high risk” appeared in the results of a search for 'Jack and the Beanstalk' on Google.
Two paid-for Google search ads were displayed when the search term “jack and the beanstalk” was used, linking to the 32Red site. Each featured information about a 150% deposit bonus on offer for customers that signed up and played the game.
The ASA challenged whether the ads were likely to be of particular appeal to children due to their content and if they were directed at those aged below 18 years of age through the selection of media or context in which they appeared.
32Red said that the ads were part of a group of adverts targeted at Google users who used search terms corresponding with the names of 32Red games, including Jack and the Beanstalk.
The operator said it classed Jack and the Beanstalk as a high risk game and that visitors to its website were not able to play until they had verified their age. However, 32Red admitted the game had been included on its site’s list of slot games in error.
The operator confirmed that it removed the adverts as soon as it was informed of the ASA’s concerns and also checked its other high risk games were not being actively advertised. In addition, it said it had since taken steps to ensure this does not happen again.
In response, the ASA said said the first page of organic search results for the term ‘jack and the beanstalk’ all related to the children’s fairy tale of the same name. The ASA also acknowledged the ads’ only reference to Jack and the Beanstalk were in the headings in a plain font.
However, the ASA said that as it is a popular children’s fairy tale, reference to Jack and the Beanstalk meant the ads were likely to be of particular appeal to children.
The ASA also said there was a strong possibility the term ‘jack and the beanstalk’ would be input as a search term by children or adults who were accompanied by a child.
As a result, the ASA ruled that by targeting ads to search engine users who used that term, 32Red had not specifically targeted ads only at those aged 18 or over, and therefore directed gambling ads to those aged under 18 years of age.
Although the ASA praised 32Red’s swift action in remove the ads, it ultimately ruled that it breached a number of CAP Code (Edition 12) rules. It was in breach of rule 16.1, which states gambling ads must be socially responsible and protect minors and vulnerable people from being harmed. 32Red also fell foul of rules 16.3 and 16.3.12 (stating that gambling ads must not apeal to minors) and 16.3.13 (ads must not appeal to minors based on their context).
The ASA said the ads must not appear again in their current form and instructed 32Red to ensure future ads do not have particular appeal to those aged under 18 years of age and are not directed at under-18s through the selection of media or context in which they appeared.
The ruling comes after Kindred last week set out plans to display responsible gambling messages on the shirts of 32Red’s partner football clubs during the course of the 2019-20 season.
The initiative will see responsible gambling messaging dominate all matches where two teams sponsored by 32Red play each other.