One of the biggest issues brought up lately in the United Kingdom, and in various other locations around the world, is why some slot developers are creating games that inherently appeal to minors. After all, children are supposed to be kept away from gambling games, being underage and without money to actually play them. However, this hasn’t stopped some providers from centering their game themes on things like fairytales or cartoon characters.
Despite the fact that many of them have a childish theme or central character involved in them, some developers have outrightly stated that this isn’t their intent when creating them. And gambling websites have also backed them up on this, with a story from 2018 focusing on various slots and their developers insisting that they aren’t aimed at children. However, when you get right down to it, is it actually possible to create such casino and slot games without them having any sort of appeal for minors? Afterall many games are designed to appeal to the inner child in adults and it is almost impossible to do that without also appealing to actual children.
That’s what we’re intending to look at here today – whether slots and other casino titles can be developed that will not attract youths to them. After all, they all usually come with high-quality, flashing graphics and animations, and kids are generally quite attracted to video games with similar qualities. Would a developer be able to create something that doesn’t appeal to children but that isn’t so bland that people of legal age to gamble won’t turn away from it, too?
The Link Between Children and Gambling
Research undertaken in the UK has discovered that children as young as 11 have problems with gambling games. At the same time, almost 500,000 youths have admitted that they participate in betting regularly, with the results of the investigation being released by the UK Gambling Commission. This figure gets even more shocking when it was found that more children had placed an underage bet than had participated in other activities they were underage for, such as drinking alcohol.
Laws exist within the UK that make it illegal for young people to partake in most gambling activities. However, there are other types of gambling that everybody is able to participate in. The Gambling Commission has stated that video gaming can actually be a route towards betting, considering that loot boxes within video games or smartphone apps frequently appear. These loot boxes have been a subject of much discussion in recent times, with some countries going as far as banning them altogether.
In the UK, the House of Lords Gambling Committee has called for an immediate regulation to be brought in with regard to loot boxes. MPs behind that call have stated that these boxes should be classified as “games of chance”, and this would see that they’re regulated under the country’s Gambling Act 2005. That change to the law, they say, should not be something that waits, considering the number of children being exposed to them every day.
Despite the fact that loot boxes aren’t the same as online slot games with inbuilt themes and such, they do have quite the link to it. Children are basically gambling with what is inside the loot box, and in many instances, this requires money to open them up. It can be said that from there, moving from loot boxes to casino gaming isn’t such a great leap to take.
Slot Games That Appeal to Minors
You don’t really need to look far to find an online slot game which could appeal to a youth. The themes involved in many of them utilise cartoon characters, fairytale stories, brands that kids are familiar with and so on. Naturally, if a child has a fondness for kittens for example, and he or she sees an online slot game that surrounds the feline creatures, it’s more likely to grab their attention. The same is true if they enjoy fairytale stories like Hansel and Gretel or Snow White, with both of those stories having slot games surrounding them.
Slot developer Netent has released a series of online slots surrounding fairytales too, including Red Riding Hood and Mirror Mirror. These games have been targeted by campaigners as prime examples of casino releases that would very much appeal to children. And it’s understandable that people would think that. After all, fairytales are also targeted at minors, and that’s been the case for a number of centuries.
In fact, you can probably look through all of the prolific slot developers and find at least one game that could be considered of appeal to such a demographic. Cinderella’s Ball by Red Tiger, The Wizard of Oz by WMS, Piggies and the Wolf by Playtech, Alice in Wonderland by Red Rake. And it’s not only things like this that actually centre on themes that appeal to kids. You see, even other games that don’t outrightly have any real connection to that demographic can be attractive. Then, of course, there are the holiday specials around Christmas, Easter and other events that are themes that naturally will appeal to younger people.
One of the most popular online slot games is Starburst by the aforementioned Netent brand. The general theme behind it is outer space. However, on the reels, there are shining, brightly-coloured gemstones, exceptional high-quality animations as you spin the reels and entertaining special features made up from the star-shaped wild additions. Putting that all together in one single online slot instantly makes it appealing to someone of a younger age. Bright lights and flashing imagery will always be something that captures the attention of a child. And that’s just one example of an online slot game that could really be latched onto by a youngster.
What’s more, even if it isn’t targeted at children or incorporates imagery that would grab their attention, children automatically learn from their parents. And while perhaps not all parents and guardians would allow their children to watch them when they’re playing casino slot games, the same can’t be said for everyone. What’s to stop a child from seeing how excited their parent or grandparent gets when they spin a slot game’s reels and win? Surely that passes on a message that online casino gaming is fun, entertaining and possibly, in their eyes, allows you to win money as well?
The Gambling Commission Takes Charge
It was a couple of years ago now that the UK Gambling Commission opted to try and take control of the situation regarding so-called “child-friendly” online slots. A letter from the regulator was sent out that demanded online gambling sites to remove what it deemed as “unacceptable” advertisements, featuring cartoon characters that are likely to appeal to children. It came about after research by the Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found multiple adverts flooding the internet when search engines were used to seek out online casino sites.
The adverts included such games as Fluffy Favourites and Pirate Princess, with some of the games promoted being available as free-to-play options, too. Experts suggested that this presented a risk to youths who could engage in demo gameplay only to later on use real money and develop a gambling habit.
Over 450 operators received the letter, which was signed by both the Commission and the ASA, including William Hill and Bet365, which are both high-profile gambling sites in the UK. Within that letter, it stated “the use of particular colours, cartoons and comic book images, animals, child and youth-orientated references and names of games such as Piggy Payout, Fluffy Favourites, Pirate Princess and Jack and the Beanstalk are likely, alone or in combination, to enhance appeal to under-18s”.
Regulators spoke of those advertisements being unacceptable, and sanctions were threatened by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) if sites failed to comply with these instructions. Within the code from CAP, marketing communications should protect children, young people and others vulnerable to gambling from being harmed or exploited.
At the same time, various games were suggested to be removed from casino game lobbies altogether. These included the aforementioned Jack and the Beanstalk, Netent’s range of Fairytale Legends titles, and more. However, this was only something ordered in the United Kingdom, and not everywhere. Those games are not necessarily banned or out of operation in other locations around the world.
Is it really possible to not only create an online slot game that doesn’t appeal to youngsters, but also promote it easily enough, too? In the end, can developers of such content really win with their game creations?
And while many of the casinos ordered to remove advertisements and even games that fit into the category of “child-friendly” complied with such requests, is it really possible for them to host extensive slot lobbies with this being the case? After all, where is the line drawn when it comes to the appeal of such releases?
Can Games Be Created That Only Appeal To Adults?
The fact that campaigners and regulatory bodies alike are expectant of companies to develop games that won’t have any draw for the underage demographic is a little bit absurd. After all, while games centring on shows like Game of Thrones or Family Guy may not hold much appeal for 3-8 year olds, they will likely appeal to teenagers of 14, 15, 16, for example. While not children, they’re still classified as being underage when it comes to the possibility of casino gambling. Therefore, even those games that could be slightly considered as more for an adult demographic aren’t so avoidable for youths.
This puts online slot developers in a difficult position, because if they were to also remove flashing lights, bright colours and enticing themes from their slot games, we’d be left with classic tic-tac-toe options. Of course, while these do still appeal to some people, they don’t hold as much attraction as a video slot with five or more reels, inbuilt special features, captivating themes and exceptional graphics involved in them. There is a bit of a dead end that has been reached when it comes to what constitutes as a proper and unappealing-to-minors game creation.
While it’s definitely a possibility to craft something that holds no appeal for children, like the basic fruit machines or bar and x traditional slots, there’s only so many of these that can be launched. Plus, the gaming community has already experienced titles that are far more advanced technology and graphics-wise. Taking the vast majority of those away from the community just because they potentially appeal to minors isn’t going to go down well. This is made even more true by the fact that the Commission is already tackling issues of problem gambling by discussing reducing the maximum bets on the games, too. How far can it go before it pretty much forces the online gaming industry out of business?
On the other hand, it’s true to say that there does need to be some sort of hard-line protocol in line to stop children from being able to access these games. Blocking the advertisement of them is one step forward, but there’s so much more that could be done. And this is something that both operators AND players need to consider. It’s never really appropriate to partake in casino games in front of a minor, but that comes down to responsible parenting, and there’s little that the government or the Commission can do to change a parent’s behaviour on this matter.
Developers of online casino games are likely going to continue creating slots that have some sort of ability to appeal to minors. That’s just a side effect of games in general – kids will always want to be entertained by something that’s as interactive as video slot titles are. And if adults are playing them in front of children, then there’s going to be a bigger desire for youths to do the same. One of the biggest things that kids want is to grow up and get to do all the things that adults get to do. But can anything be done to stop gambling being the route taken by so many?
Many games are also streamed on you tube by influencers and these videos have much less age gating in place compared to gambling websites, so even if slots are hidden on casino sites there is still a lot of potential for these to be exposed to minors.