On 22 August 2018, the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) published rulings in relation to website ads by gambling operators Annexio Ltd t/a Lottogo.com (formerly World Lottery Club) ("Lottogo") and Rieves Lotteries Ltd ("Rieves") and their compliance with the UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising ("CAP Code").

The ASA found that Lottogo's ad was misleading, whilst Rieve's ad was socially irresponsible and likely to be of particular appeal to children. Both ads were found to be in breach of the CAP Code.

The Ads

a) Lottogo

Lottogo's website allowed users to bet on the outcome of foreign lotteries and the home page listed various lotteries on which users could bet along with their current prize funds. Large text at the top of a page advertising entry to the Mega Millions Lottery in the USA, seen on 13 July 2018, stated "MEGA MILLIONS £256 MILLION". Text further down the page stated "Mega Millions has an opening of $15 million with no cap. It makes the world's biggest lottery winners!".

The issues were whether:

  1. the ad was misleading as it did not make clear that the winnings were subject to US taxes; and
  2. the ad was misleading as it did not make clear it was offering the opportunity to bet on the outcome of the lottery, rather than participate in it.

b) Rieves

Rieve's website, seen on 2 July 2018, featured images of five scratchcards which showed cartoon-like images. For example, one was called "Christmas Kisses" and had images of snowmen whilst another was called "Lucky Shamrock" and featured a leprechaun-like fairy.

The issue was whether the graphical content of the scratchcards was of particular appeal to children.

The Decisions

a) Lottogo

On the first issue, Lottogo argued that it was industry practice to advertise potential prizes pre-tax. Further, it said the ad made clear that tax and other deductions may apply, and this was also set out in its terms and conditions. On the second issue, Lottgo argued that the website made it clear to consumers that they were betting on the outcome of lotteries through text at the bottom of the homepage; by the fact that they used the word "bet" on the homepage and the Mega Millions page; and that any use of the word "pick", i.e. pick the winning numbers, elsewhere on the page was a neutral use of such term.

In relation to the first issue, whilst the ASA noted that the terms and conditions did refer to deductions for tax, the fact that such deductions may amount to "nearly half" of the advertised jackpot amount was material information and should have featured prominently where prize funds were quoted. Explanations elsewhere were also found to be insufficiently prominent to counter the overall impression of the headline.

In relation to the second issue, the ASA considered that the website as a whole gave the impression that consumers would be playing the Mega Millions lottery, among other lotteries. It rejected Lottogo's argument around the word "bet" and noted that text underneath a "Previous Winners" heading described previous winners of the lottery itself in the US. The ASA also referred to guidance published by the Gambling Commission on betting on lotteries which cautions against the use of lottery-themed terms such as "draw", "play now" and "jackpot" alongside lottery ticket style betting slips that could mislead consumers.

On both issues, the ASA applied similar reasoning to its ruling against Lottoland (of which a summary can be found here) in finding Lottogo's ad to be misleading and consequently in breach of rules 3.1 and 3.3 of the CAP Code.

A link to the full ASA ruling on the Lottogo ad can be found here.

b) Rieves

Rieves argued that its website was a reference-only website which provided players with further information about specific games they had purchased in shops. Its products were sold in shops and were not available to purchase online. They said they used generic animated stock imagery to reflect either the season (e.g. the snowmen) or other character based imagery (e.g. pigs, bees, and leprechauns).

The ASA reviewed each of the five scratchcards in turn and considered each was of appeal to children. Key considerations were the colourful and exaggerated cartoon like images, and the manner in which the images were depicted. For example, the snowmen were depicted in a smiley, cuddly manner.

For those reasons, the ads, which marketed gambling products, were found likely to appeal more strongly to under-18s than over-18s. Consequently they were found to be both socially irresponsible and of appeal to children, in breach of rules 16.1 and 16.3.12 of the CAP Code. A link to the full ASA ruling on the Rieves ad can be found here.

The decision is in line with recent focus on the protection of children from gambling. Indeed, the Gambling Commission recently published a response to the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board's ("RGSB") report on children, young people and gambling in which it highlighted the strengthening of its relationship with the ASA in cracking down on gambling adverts which appeal to children, with recent rulings against M88.com, TGP Europe, and Coral. For further information, our summary of the Gambling Commission's response to the RGSB's report can be found here.