Monopoly-Themed Online Gambling Ad Flagged Over Potential Appeal to Children

United Kingdom - An advertisement for an online casino game that uses a Monopoly Board Game theme has been flagged by advertising regulator, Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), over concerns that the mere appearance of the board game’s popular cartoon mascot — Rich Uncle Pennybags — might entice children.

The ASA deemed the ad, which appeared on the website of the Mirror Online, in violation of its code, which indicates that gambling ads must be designed in a way that does not appeal to young people. The ruling is a timely one as it comes while concern is on the rise about the exposure of children to gambling through various media platforms such as television ads, football shirt sponsorships, computer games, apps, and social media.

A Gambling Commission audit that was published last year indicated that the number of problem gamblers aged 11 to 16 had climbed sharply to 55,000 over a two-year period, raising concern over a “generational scandal”. The ASA has yet to officially put pen to paper regarding its decision but the regulator has apparently already told Entertaining Play, the Gibraltar-based company developing the game, that it must not appear again.

The Right Rev Dr. Alan Smith, the bishop of St Albans, lauded the ruling and expressed that the advertisement was “yet more evidence” that gambling companies are now honing in on children.

“Monopoly is beloved by young people and there was no doubt that a smiling cartoon character which is the logo of this family board game will appeal to children.

“Board games should be allowed to remain board games and must be off-limits to gambling companies pushing boundaries in order to normalize highly addictive casino games,” Smith said in an interview that was published on The Guardian.

“I hope other companies that stoop to these tactics take note and remove similar adverts,” he added.

Entertaining Play, whose parent company, Gamesys, also deals with gambling products that make use of Richard Branson’s Virgin brand, explained that the well-known character of Mr. Monopoly, or Rich Uncle Pennybags, was unlikely to be appealing to children.

It argued that the character was dressed in adult attire and “did not possess exaggerated features and did not mimic any style of cartoon character seen in current children’s programming”.

The company also claimed that the colors used in the ad were not “garish or overly vibrant and did not draw inspiration from youth culture” and that it had taken steps to ensure it was only targeted at over-18s.