Publication of ASA/CAP Annual Report coincides with two gambling ad rulings

Today (3 June 2020) has seen publication by the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) and Committees of Advertising Practice (“CAP”) of their Annual Report, entitled “Using Technology for Good” (that you can download below.

As was the case with last year’s report, this year’s focuses on progress in terms of implementing their five-year strategy to have “More Impact Online” including the use of cutting-edge technologies to monitor ads online and take enforcement action.

As reported by us in April 2019, those technologies include monitoring work by means of ‘avatars’ – online profiles that simulate children’s browsing activity – to identify gambling ads that children see online.

As Andy Taylor, Regulatory Policy Executive at CAP, states in this year’s report, this “provides significant new detail on unacceptable types of content, including certain types of animated characters, licensed characters from movies or TV and sportspeople and celebrities likely to be of particular appeal to young people, and references to youth culture. It also adds to existing guidance on the responsible targeting of ads, covering all media, including social networks and other online platforms. The new guidance stops ads from including content that might draw children and young people’s attention to gambling, and reinforces the strong framework of protections that limit their exposure”.

Publication of the above report coincides with rulings by the ASA in relation to LC International Limited whereby it:

In the case of the Coral ad, the ASA described it as follows:

A Tweet on Coral’s Twitter page, seen in March 2020, featured the text “We’re as passionate about the bet as you are. So, get your stake back as a free bet if your horse fails to finish. #CoralRacing 18+, T&C’s Apply”. A link to a video ad was captioned “Have another go” and began with horses racing and superimposed text which stated “STRONG, FAST, RELENTLESS, RIDERLESS”. The scene then featured a jockey about to fall off his horse. Further text stated GET A FREE BET BACK WITH FAIL TO FINISH” while a voiceover repeated it. A man watching looked disappointed until he looked at his phone and smiled. The voiceover stated, “For the passion of the bet: Coral Racing.”

The complainant believed the ad to be irresponsible because it encouraged repeated gambling. Upholding that complaint in a way that could have consequences on many other free bet offers, the ASA’s assessment states:

The CAP Code stated that marketing communications for gambling must not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm. CAP and BCAP’s Advertising Guidance on ‘Gambling Advertising: responsibility and problem gambling’ also stated that marketers should take care to avoid trivialising gambling and avoid the impression that the decision to gamble should be taken lightly, for example by not encouraging repetitive participation.

The ASA understood the ad promoted a “Fail to Finish” offer which gave consumers a free bet token matching their bet value up to £10 in the event that their horse failed to finish. We acknowledged that the “Fail to Finish” promotion did not oblige consumers to take up the offer and that consumers did not have to use additional funds to qualify for the offer. However, we considered that the claim “Have another go”, together with the video ad which featured a man whose mood was instantly lifted following a free bet back, gave the impression that the decision to gamble had been taken lightly and was therefore likely to encourage some consumers to take up the offer repetitively. For that reason, we concluded that the ad was likely to encourage gambling behaviour that was potentially harmful and therefore breached the Code.

In the case of the Ladbrokes ad, in deciding against upholding the complaints, the ASA’s assessment states:

The ad presented three characters engaging in everyday tasks and real-life scenarios that appeared to remind them of different online casino games: a slot machine; blackjack game; and roulette wheel. The ASA considered that whilst the characters were depicted as momentarily reminded of gambling and engaged in that analogy of the situation, they were not so distracted that they didn’t continue with those tasks. We also considered that the brief scenarios depicted did not present gambling as indispensable or imply that it took priority in any aspect of the characters’ lives. We therefore concluded that the ad did not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible, or portray gambling as indispensable or as taking priority in life.

You can download both rulings below.


Download article PDF: ASA-CAP Annual Report 2019