Children exposed to gambling adverts on Looney Tunes app

Children were exposed to gambling adverts on Looney Tunes smartphone app, prompting ban

  • The Advertising Standards Authority censured firms for gambling promotions
  • The averts were banned after appearing in Looney Tunes World of Mayhem
  • It has age rating of seven and up but producers say adverts were aimed at adults 

Four gambling adverts have been banned after they appeared in a smartphone app used by children which features Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

The Advertising Standards Authority censured firms for promotions in Looney Tunes World of Mayhem – which has an age rating of seven and up.

The watchdog said the link between gambling and cartoons came at a time of mounting concern that betting is being ‘normalised’ for children.

The Advertising Standards Authority censured firms for promotions in Looney Tunes World of Mayhem – which has an age rating of seven and up

The producers of the game argued it was meant to be for adults. However, the watchdog found it had a rating of PEGI 7 in the Google Play app store, meaning it was suitable for players aged seven and over. The game allows players to build worlds based on the Looney Tunes cartoons and collect characters to battle each other. The ASA censured LottoGo EuroMillions, William Hill Vegas, Betfair Bingo and Dunder. It said: ‘Given the use of cartoon characters, cartoonish violence and the relatively simple nature of the game, we considered it was likely to appeal to many under-18s. However, we acknowledged that characters would be well-known to older players, and the game was likely to have more general appeal.’

It ruled that the ads must not be used again without specific targeting to minimise the likelihood of under-18s being exposed to them. LottoGo and Dunder said the ads were placed by an affiliate company called Tapjoy, and it has since terminated the relationship. Betfair also said it had stopped working with Tapjoy. William Hill added that it had blacklisted the app. Tapjoy insisted the Looney Tunes app had been incorrectly categorised with a ‘mature gambling’ setting – meaning it was only designed for adults – which is why the ads appeared within it. Scopely, the publisher of Looney Tunes World of Mayhem, said it did not target games at children.

Meanwhile, a new study has fuelled fears computer games may be providing a ‘gateway’ into problem gambling for teenagers. The study of more than 1,100 children found those who had spent money on in-game ‘loot boxes’ in the past month scored more than twice as highly on a problem gambling questionnaire.

The watchdog ruled that the ads must not be used again without specific targeting to minimise the likelihood of under-18s being exposed to them

Players can purchase the boxes using real money or in-game currency in the hope of getting items such as weapons and costumes.

But the boxes may also contain worthless items – therefore the purchase is a gamble.

Loot boxes feature in games like Counter-Strike and FIFA 19.

Last year the Gambling Commission warned nearly a million children had been exposed to gambling through ‘loot boxes’.

The new questionnaire asked children if they had stolen or used lunch or clothing money to fund their gambling, or lied to parents about it. The research into 16 to 18-year-olds, led by York St John University, found children with gambling problems spent five times as much on loot boxes.

The authors concluded: ‘Loot boxes may provide a gateway to problem gambling’.

Last year the Gambling Commission warned nearly a million children had been exposed to gambling through ‘loot boxes’

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