ASA orders PokerStars to cease using television advert

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that a television advert used by PokerStars must not be broadcast again, warning the company to ensure that it doesn’t portray gambling in a socially irresponsible manner or in the context of recklessness.

The two complaints that were received about the advert challenged whether it sought to exploit inexperienced poker players by suggesting that they could easily excel at the game and make large winnings.

The advert featured a voice-over which prompted the complaints by stating: “Here you are, the moment when bluffing is the only way to win, you’re freaking out kiddo, but think about all those times you bluffed yourself. Like the pull-up bar waiting for you to get back in-shape, that book you’re definitely going to read, your parents never ever had sex. Use that talent because if you can bluff yourself, you can bluff anyone. Pokerstars, you’re already a great poker player”.

In its ruling the ASA considered that viewers could interpret the advert to mean that if they could bluff through the real life experiences shown in the broadcast, they could become great poker players. Identifying evidence of this, the ASA highlighted that the use of the phrases “Here you are, the moment when bluffing is the only way to win” as well as “use that talent because if you can bluff yourself you can bluff anyone”.

PokerStars responded to the complaints, emphasising that: “The advert was intended to reflect a small, relaxed environment. There was no reference to or suggestion of any financial reward or inducement to play and no money was shown during the ad. When the voice-over stated that bluffing was the only way to win it was only in reference to the hand that the player had and was not meant to relate to every hand in the game.”

It added it didn’t consider the advert suggested “a financial reward of any kind in relation to winning and that the chips used were indicative of tracking a players progress and not representative of money”. PokerStars also pointed to the adverts style and tone as evidence that the advert didn’t suggest that players could win lots of money. Emphasising that the phrase “great poker player” meant a person who was very good at poker and that the humour in the ad was meant to show the main protagonist as an individual in possession of one of the skills necessary to play poker and how it was used in other aspects of their life.

Nonetheless, the ASA upheld the complaints against the advert, ruling that it believed the advert could lead to players believing they could bluff their way to being a great poker player. Subsequently, the ASA has ruled that the advert must not be shown again in its current form, and warned PokerStars against portraying gambling in a socially irresponsible manner or in the context of recklessness in the future.  

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