To Ban or Not to Ban the Cartoon Motif?

People used to toil away for days and months at a time, all to the purpose of drawing up a cartoon as much as drawing a smile on their viewers' faces. These products called for great design skill, patience and above all labour - even though there was no heavy lifting, cartoonists were constantly straining their brains over the next big idea.

Digital design capabilities and tech advancements nowadays have turned this invaluable form of art into an animation, with the market saturation provoking a change to its core. Not only did topics become all the more exploited and wasted away, but people started doing it for purposes other than people's entertainment.

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The Cartoon Motif - Used or Abused on Bingo Platforms?

Speaking of cartoons, many different establishments have been known to employ a specific character, storyline, tune or any other element of a given animation for their own purposes. No matter whether it is to emphasize their ad or simply decorate their product in a more appealing manner, cartoons as old as time are still used globally.

Such practices eventually led to the recognition of the cartoon motif, found in products, services and many other public offerings. However, with it arose the matter of using what is near and dear to everyone's hearts just to increase sales and revenues. And this is where use slowly turned into an abuse of the cartoon motif. Now, some establishments are known to use it more than others, and for the purpose of higher gains and profit. Understandably so, each of them is as guilty as the other in their attempts to reach higher incomes.

Despite developments in statistics and overall income analyses, it is still rather difficult to determine which entities should take the greater blame. Calculations tend to include the extent of the motif's presence, the amount of profit that has been accumulated through its exploitation, and the various ways in which it was used (decorations, direct ads, etc). What such statistical data tend to leave out of their analysis is one key factor - the people that are directly influenced by such employing such elements, no matter whether emotionally, physically or financially. In this regard, there is one industry that definitely managed to do better than all other combined when it comes to both using and abusing such a theme.

The Basics of the UK Online Gambling Industry - Bingo, Poker, Casino...

If you were ever wondering about the fastest growing and highly profitable recent industry, online gambling is definitely the answer, and the UK's steady rise from one year to the next only proves it further, as noted in public statistics data. Tech advancements, online payment processing services, and all kinds of additional innovations further assisted the promotion of online gambling activities, both in the UK and worldwide. Relatively low costs further prompted the business' development, which left operators wondering about the next big thing that could get them more and more.

While sportsbooks started off with certain punter benefits and tips, casinos and bingo platforms offered all kinds of bonuses and promotions. The entire online gambling industry is based on such enticing offers, but this is often not enough to keep players coming or even coming back to the same place and playing regularly. For this purpose, online gambling operators in the UK and all over the world have turned to such gaming software products that call upon certain themes - popular TV shows, characters, music and above all cartoons. The latter of them all is a rather troublesome area, especially since they are primarily intended for children and underage viewers, and only then for adults allowed to access the online gaming platforms.

The bingo platforms with one cutesy theme or another are among the first to be blamed for such manipulation, as many experts claim that the choice of cartoon elements has a direct effect on your choices. Considering that you are legally an adult, all it takes is to imagine the implications it would have on the perception of children and minors. Finding most fault in such operators, numerous bingo platforms have been scrutinized for age-restrictions and children-appealing themes, prior and during the authority's official involvement in the matter.

The Issue of Cartoon Motifs in i-Gaming Content & How It Was Handled

UK territory has a rather strict and clearly defined policy when it comes to the i-Gaming industry, usually enforced by authoritative bodies such as the UK Gambling Commission and the Remote Gambling Association. They tend to impose all kinds of regulations and restrictions in order to maintain a fair and reputable remote gambling environment that will benefit both the operators and their customers.

Nonetheless, such regulatory bodies see an additional concern posed towards those members of society which are supposed to be kept outside the industry - minors. Children and underage teenagers are more and more exposed to all kinds of advertisements, free play platforms and access points to the real-money online gambling establishments than ever before, and the appeal of the cartoon motif has been identified as a primary driver of such tendencies.

Namely, their argument is supported by claims regarding the exploitation of childhood cartoon heroes, animated shows and even old classic fables, all to the purpose of generating higher income. The matter has been officially handled through a written letter signed by the two aforementioned organizations, as well as the Committee of Advertising Practices (CAP) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), demanding a retraction of all forms of advertisement that would in any way make use of symbols or indicators towards this motif. The purpose, as clearly stated in the written document, is to eliminate all material that is 'likely to appeal particularly to people aged 17 or below'.

In what ensued to be many accusations directed at bingo sites particularly, their colourful layouts and simple gameplay were considered the major threat to minors. And while demographic data haven't indicated any children's interest in bingo gaming, the situation soon came to its official stage.

A lengthy procedure followed up on such claims and aimed to examine their credibility, as well as the arguments posed by the parties on the other side of the accusation - online gambling platforms. During this time, another important piece of information had been discovered - over 450,000 children in England and Wales have been estimated to be engaging in gambling activities each week. While these may solely be limited to play-money platforms primarily established for entertaining and promotional purposes, the lack of access control further complicated the situation. After all, seeing that they can win at free-money practically paves the way to the major jackpot hits at the real-money game options.

As the debate continued, some of the top popular titles were identified as directly indicative of cartoon, animation or story-like motifs, and blamed for undercover intentions such as luring youngsters into the industry. Among these, slot game titles like Jack and the Beanstalk, Fluffy Favourites and Pirate Princess were mentioned as direct threats to this sensitive social class, but no such thing was made for the bingo platforms and their cartoon-like layouts. In an attempt to create even greater urgency regarding the matter, Tom Watson, the UK's shadow culture secretary called for immediate ban, claiming that these operators were working based on a 'loophole' in the regulative.

Ultimately, a decision has been reached by the UKGC as the leading authority in matters of the remote gambling industry. Online gambling websites such as William Hill, 888 and Bet365 among others, have been officially asked to 'amend or remove' any advertisements that involve any form of cartoon motifs or other children-appealing elements. This, in turn, clarified the lack of basis for a much deeper restriction that could affect bingo site platforms or the actual game selection at these or other major online casinos.

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To Ban or Not to Ban - What Do You Think

By now, it is already a well-known fact that there is hardly any other jurisdiction worldwide that has been able to regulate this industry as lawfully as the UK. This is one of the reasons for the Gambling Commission's position as a highly esteemed authority, although their demanding licensing requirements and constantly rising industry standards are definitely taken into account as well.

With great power, comes great responsibility, and so far, the UKGC has been seen as capable of meeting both the benefits and the obligations. Regardless, the manner in which this cartoon motif has been handled inevitably left a taste in everyone's mouths. Those sweetened by this action strongly supported the Commission's decision and the claim on which it was based. Some even go as far as to demand complete withdrawal of the game titles that supposedly employ this motif to their own corporate interests, stirring up the situation even further. After that, it is only a matter of time before targeted bingo sites are subject to even more rigorous measures, practically limiting their creativity. This could come to influence their existence, as qualitative examination has shown that these 'eye-catching colours' serve to draw in and retain the regular, adult customer.

As for the opposing block, there are those left with a bitter aftertaste of these recent legal provisions. Everyone from online gambling platform operators to the gaming software providers themselves has been led to make their own contra-claim. In it, the parties invoke the irregularity of the limitations that have been imposed on their business choices.

All that remains is to think of the final segment implicated in the overall dispute - the actual online gambling platform customers, the bingo players that come into contact with these titles and designs day in and day out. Such a decision to eliminate advertisements may not be too detrimental to their overall online gameplay experience, but once the ball starts rolling, it is surely bound to include restrictions such as complete removal of corresponding titles that are said to make use of the cartoon motif, or maybe even entire bingo websites on the basis of their cute themes and fairy-tale motifs.

All in all, it is yet to be seen how the ban on ads and promotional material using such elements will influence other industries, as it could come to apply to anything ranging from an online book advertisement to an actual cartoon. Some even claim that it could have implications on the already troublesome video gaming industry - loot boxes (filled with unknown prizes) purchased with real money have seen numerous publications get involved in the issue as well. After all, as long as the outcome is completely random and unknown, you are gambling your money to see what you get.

Taking all these aspects into consideration, the faith of these entertaining bingo sites is rather relative. So, where do you stand, to ban or not to ban?

Sources:

'Industry Statistics', gamblingcommission.gov.uk

Official Letter by CAP, ASA, UKGC & RGA, gamblingcommission.gov.uk

'Online bookies 'use cartoons to target children': Regulators investigate firms after they are accused of using characters to promote casino games', Ben Wilkinson, dailymail.co.uk

'UK bans games with cartoons', focusgn.com

'UK to ban games with cartoons', europeangaming.eu

'The Online Bingo Boom in the UK: A Qualitative Examination of Its Appeal', M. Stead, F. Dobbie, K. Angus and L. Macdonald, researchgate.net

'Call to regulate video game loot boxes over gambling concerns', bbc.com

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