An ad for Live Betfred Casino seen during the programme PrestonPlayz on The Roku Channel, an over-the-top streaming service, on 17 April 2023. The ad included a voice-over which stated, “Welcome to Betfred Casino. Here you can play a range of slot and table games or take a seat in our live casino.”
IssueThe complainant challenged whether the ad was directed at those aged below 18 years through the selection of media or context in which it appeared.
Petfre (Gibraltar) Ltd t/a Betfred said that whenever they bought media, they took proactive steps to ensure that they complied with the Code, and that any third-party agency was also compliant. They said the media in question was sourced through their media agency via a further media agency that focused on addressable TV. They had instructed their media agency that the ad should specifically only be broadcast to adults and that any content that was aimed at under 18s should be removed from the media supply. Betfred said the addressable TV agency had confirmed that they had received those instructions from Betfred’s media agency, and that they shared them with Roku at the start of the campaign.
Their target audience for the ad was based on third-party survey data. The habits and lifestyles of individuals over the age of 16 were surveyed and mapped out, allowing companies to identify target audiences based on adult behaviours. That data was used to target the ad to men aged between 25 and 44 years who used online sports betting sites at least once a year, spent money on betting, or used a smartphone or tablet to access online sports betting. Once the target audience was built, it was uploaded into a programmatic database that matched the targeting with media options such as the Roku platform.
Betfred said the show was not categorised as “Kids-Directed” by Roku. Because of this, it was not unreasonable to assume that the percentage of users under the age of 18 was below 25%, though they confirmed that they did not have access to audience data for individual programmes. They said that they were not able to provide programme demographics for the individual audience of PrestonPlayz beyond its categorisation as not being “Kids-Directed”.
Betfred said they were disappointed that the standards they put in place internally failed due to actions outside of their direct control. They confirmed that they would continue to work with all their external partners to ensure that their ads complied with Code.Roku, Inc t/a Roku said that most of the content on its platform, including PrestonPlayz, was licensed from third-party content providers. To help determine what ads were appropriate for viewers, they required third-party content providers to label content that was directed at, or made primarily for viewing by, children as “Made for Kids”. Roku also tagged content as “Made for Kids” where the genre label was “children”, or if it was tagged as “animated” and the content also had an age rating of U, PG, 12, or 12A. Any ad inventory within content that was labelled as “Made for Kids” was not made available through their ads partner, to help prevent non-compliant ads from being displayed within that content.
They also had a section within their channel called “Kids and Family” where “Made for Kids” content and content they had determined as appropriate for family viewing was made available for streaming; gambling ads were not permitted to run in “Kids and Family” content. The PrestonPlayz content had not been labelled as “Made for Kids” by the content provider and was not included in their “Kids and Family” section.
Regarding the targeting options available to advertisers for ad inventory in such as the PrestonPlayz programme, Roku said they contractually obliged all advertisers and agencies purchasing ad inventory to comply with all applicable laws. The inventory was made available, through Roku’s ads partner, to advertisers who were then able to apply their own targeting parameters. They clarified that the ad in question was shown because the content provider for PrestonPlayz did not identify the content as “Made for Kids”, and other information available to Roku (such as genre and ratings) did not suggest that the content would be appealing to children.
Roku said that according to their terms and conditions, Roku account holders must be 18 or older. They acknowledged that it was possible for a Roku device to be used by individuals within the account holder’s household, which could include children. However, they did not know whether any of the channel’s viewers were under 18. Account holders could set up parental controls to require a PIN password to stream titles rated as PG or higher.
CAP Code rule 16.3.13 required that marketing communications for gambling must not be directed at those aged younger than 18 years through the selection of media or context in which they appeared.
Ads for gambling must not appear in media that was commissioned for or with a disproportionately large audience of under-18s, i.e. more than 25% of the overall audience. In addition, age-restricted ads on streaming platforms should not be targeted solely based on age data, because of younger users misreporting their age or different people sharing the same streaming services, and advertisers should support that method of targeting by using interest-based factors to help remove those aged under 18 years of age from the target audience of gambling product ads. The ASA therefore considered that marketers should be able to demonstrate that they had taken reasonable steps to ensure that gambling ads were directed at an audience aged 18 and over to minimise exposure of under-18s to such ads.
The ad appeared in the Roku app, during the programme PrestonPlayz. The programme was dedicated to Minecraft, a well-known game that was largely, although not exclusively, aimed at children and showed content that was likely to appeal to children. Furthermore, the programme, which included vivid, cartoonish presentation and blocky visuals, and a presenter who used exaggerated mannerisms and a lively way of speaking, resembled children’s programmes. For those reasons, we considered that the programme was directed at children.
Roku users were required to self-declare that they were aged 18 or over in order to create an account. However, ages could be misreported, and streaming services were commonly shared between adults and younger users within a household. In any case, because no data was available on the number of under-18s who viewed the channel or the programme, we were unable to gain an insight into the proportion of viewers under the age of 18, even on a self-declaration basis.
As stated above, we considered that, PrestonPlayz was likely to appeal particularly to under-18s. We accepted that Betfred had targeted the ads based on “adult behaviours”: those who used online sports betting sites at least once a year, spent money on betting, or used a smartphone or tablet to access online sports betting. However, these criteria were not sufficient to prevent the ad from being seen around a programme directed at children. For those reasons, we considered that the ad was directed at those below the age of 18 through the selection of media in which it appeared and therefore breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Social responsibility), 16.1 and 16.3.13 (Gambling).
The ad must not be used again without further, specific targeting to minimise the likelihood of under-18s being exposed to it. We told Petfre (Gibraltar) Ltd t/a Betfred to ensure that ads were appropriately targeted in future, including ensuring that they did not appear in media which was commissioned for or with a disproportionately large audience of under-18s.