Who: Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”), Coral Interactive (Gibraltar) Ltd (“Coral“), Hillside (UK Sports) LP trading as Bet365 (“Bet365“), Petfre (Gibraltar) Ltd trading as Totesport (“Totesport“)
When: 28 October 2015
Law stated as at: 18 November 2015
The ASA has both challenged and upheld complaints about ads by three bookmakers (Coral, Bet365 and Totesport) following Jordan Spieth’s recent win at the US Open. All three advertisers tweeted an image of the 22 year old professional golfer shortly after his victory and the ASA challenged whether the gambling ads were irresponsible.
Under the CAP Code, gambling ads cannot prominently feature an individual who is under 25 years old. The only exception to this rule is where an 18 to 24 year old features in an ad which appears in a place where a bet can be placed directly (for example, on a gambling operator’s own website). In such an ad, the individual must be the subject of the bet and the image must show them in the context of the bet and not in a gambling context.
The ASA confirmed that, despite objections from the advertisers, the tweets were within the remit of the CAP Code. Consequently, as a result of the ads featuring an individual under the age of 25 in a gambling ad (and not falling within the exception set out above), the ads were in breach of the CAP Code.
Why this matters:
These rulings make three important points about the ASA’s approach and remit:
- The ASA can launch investigations without receiving any complaints
These adjudications serve as a reminder that the ASA can lodge complaints against ads that it considers to be in breach of the code. Such challenges are increasingly becoming more common, especially following the ASA’s 2014 Annual Report, in which it vouched to have more impact and be more proactive. Therefore, even if an ad does not attract complaints from members of the public, it is still at risk of scrutiny by the ASA, particularly in areas of high sensitivity such as gambling. This enforces the ASA’s approach that, if an ad is found in breach of the CAP Code, it can and will ban and ad, irrespective of how many complaints it has received.
- The ASA’s remit and social media
Both Bet365 and Coral claimed that their tweets were not ads and did not fall within the remit of the CAP Code. Despite these objections, the ASA confirmed that the tweets were directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods, especially as two of the tweets referred to specific odds and contained direct links to the advertiser’s own gambling sites, both features that encouraged consumers to think about placing a bet. The ASA considered that all three tweets were intended to promote the brands in question and comment on a major sporting event that such a brand would take bets on. Accordingly, such tweets could not be classified as editorial content and therefore fell within the remit of the CAP Code.
- Gambling rules
Towards the end of 2014, CAP published a review of the rules on gambling advertising in line with the sweeping increase in betting online and via mobile devices as a result of recent advances in technology. Social media has played a key role in the promotion of betting in this context and these rulings demonstrate the ASA’s recognition of this. Generally, the CAP Code requires ads for gambling to be socially responsible, with a particular focus given to the need to protect young people from being exploited.