Government officials in New Zealand are investigating allegations that a commercial for an online poker website aired during restricted time. Problem Gaming Foundation chief executive, John Stansfield says his 9 year old daughter saw the commercial while she was watching The Simpsons.
TV3 is standing by its decision to screen the commercial, saying it was “vetted by the Television Commercials Approval Bureau which pre-screens all T.V. ads before they go to air, in line with the Advertising Standards Authority guidelines.”
Roger Beaumont, the Director of Marketing says, “This ad was deemed acceptable outside of children’s program time – the same classification awarded to TAB and Lotto commercials.”
The Internal Affairs Department is investigating complaints from several people and will make a decision at the end of this month to decide what action should be taken.
Problem Gaming advocates argue the commercial encourages young people to think poker is a game of skill and that if they practice enough, they will become stars.
In New Zealand, the Gambling Act bans online or “remote interactive gambling” unless it is promoted by the Lotteries Commission. It also bans advertising for “overseas gambling.”
Specifically, the commercial in question is an advertisement that promoted the website www.pokerstars.net. It offered a free download of software which would allow the consumer to play online against other players using play money. It was mirrored after the site, PokerStars where players use real money to gamble.
Both of the sites are owned by Rational Entertainment which is based on the Isle of Man.
Mr. Stansfield explained that this is the first commercial he knows of for online gambling that has been spotted in New Zealand. “We know that online poker has a very strong appeal to young people.” He is hoping that the government will crack down on this sort of advertising because it sends the wrong message to kids.
TV3’s definition of children’s program time is between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on the weekdays and 6:30 a.m. through 9:00 a.m. on the weekends.
Since the commercial aired outside of the specified children program time, TV3 will keep airing the ad until it is forced not to.