Now, of all the entities I expected to use, the term ‘Fake News’ offensively, I must confess, I did not expect the gambling industry to be one of them.
Although, on reflection, this may have been rather naïve. After all, in recent months the bookies have been battered by a series of damming allegations, ranging from the unsavoury to the morally indefensible. However, when I saw this story breaking, I was more than a little intrigued and had questions such as; is it justified? Is traditional news reporting blunting the point behind the bad press for the sake of added drama?
Well, in truth it is hard to tell. Interestingly, some of the responses from the Gambling industry have been notably aggressive. Normally, bookies will retreat behind tired rhetoric about how they take their responsibilities seriously and vague promises to investigate any possible allegations. However, on this occasion they’ve come out swinging – perhaps due to the severity of the allegations themselves.
So, what are these allegations exactly? Well, recently, The Sunday Times has claimed that gambling operators are using a loophole to target minors, creating games that appeal to children without necessarily breaching The Gambling Commission’s terms and conditions. Such stories have been given a degree of sensationalism by adding a token image of a child holding an ipad, looking suitably depressed and downtrodden.
The national newspaper’s investigation reported that operators were luring children to gamble with their favourite cartoon and storybook characters in online betting games. Such claims hold significant weight. After all, luring venerable adults is one thing, luring children is quite another!
In a rather shocking turn of events I’m going to side with the bookie on this one – or at least until any solid proof is provided. The reason for this is simple. As a business owner, I know all too well the costs of advertising. Because of this, I find it hard to believe that a company would knowingly spend millions on advertising and product development, to target individuals who cannot even create an account. Businesses like these operate on a cost per acquisition (CPA) – a common measurement designed to assess the success of marketing campaigns. Targeting those that cannot sign up will inflate this CPA and as a result probably get the whole marketing department sacked.
The counter argument to my defence is serious but un-substantiated. There are additional allegations that stakes on games ranging from 1p to £600, and can be played for free without registration or any age verification checks. Some of the companies and games named include Peter Pan on the Paddy Power website, Jack and the Beanstalk on the 888 website and Moon Princess on the Casinoland website.
Now, if it is proven that the gambling industry is purposefully targeting children with these games, I’d immediately drop my defence because frankly this would be appalling. But for now, I will remain impartial despite the suspiciously emotional defence launched by some who represent the gambling industry. Case in point would be Warwick Bartlett, Director of the GBGC (Global Betting & Gaming Consultants) who is quoted as saying:
“The company’s KYC would block them, they cannot deposit unless they are 18+ years. This is fake news. Cartoon characters are often used instead of real people because computer graphics are cheaper than paying for overpriced stars. Oh, and by the way they do not only appeal to children, adults like them too.”
The ’Oh, and by the way’ is about as emotional as these quotes usually get!
Clearly the Gambling industry is flustered. The question is, is this an admission of guilt or innocence!