The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has reversed the trend to sanction the advertising of gambling operators in its latest round of adjudications, with both SkyBet and Channel 5 cleared of breaching advertising guidelines.
Thirteen complainants has challenged whether gambling ads were inappropriately scheduled around a programme which highlighted the problems that online gambling could cause. Channel 5’s “My Spiral into Debt Hell” featured one person who had accrued a debt of £70,000 from online gambling and had lost their home, family and job as a result. The three ad breaks during the programme and the one after it included ads for either Rush Poker Mobile or Supercasino.com.
Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd said the programme ‘My Spiral into Debt Hell’ illustrated how people became indebted and coped with it subsequently and that the message of the online gambling story was that gambling did not solve financial problems, rather using gambling as a solution to financial problems was likely to lead to further financial difficulty and debt. It also pointed out that the ads were shown after the 9pm watershed.
The ASA commented: “We acknowledged that the ads for online gambling were incongruous with the programme content, but considered the scheduling of those ads around the programme was not irresponsible, or an unsuitable juxtaposition that was likely to cause distress or offence to viewers.”
Meanwhile one person challenged whether a SkyBet offer of a “free matched bet” was clear enough that the stake would be deducted from any winnings. The ASA decided that the bookmaker’s ad was indeed clear. It said: “The headline banner stated “T&Cs apply” and the terms and conditions were set out below the banner. The ASA therefore considered that the terms and conditions of the offer would be clear to consumers.
“The first section of the terms and conditions was headed “How to claim” and included the condition “Free bets are non-withdrawable and your stake is not included in any returns”. That condition was reiterated in the “General terms and conditions”. We considered that it was appropriate to include the condition “Free bets are non-withdrawable and your stake is not included in any returns” in the terms and conditions, provided it was clear to consumers; we considered the placement of that condition in the ad was appropriate and sufficiently prominent.
“We therefore concluded that the ad made clear that the amount of the free matched bet would be deducted from any winnings and was not misleading.”