On 14 March 2018 the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) published rulings against two gambling operators: Intellectual Property & Software Limited (trading as Pink Casino) and Broadway Gaming Limited. A week later – on 21 March – a ruling was published against Profit Accumulator Ltd in respect of four adverts for its matched betting service. The ASA found that Pink Casino and Broadway were in breach of the CAP Code for misleading and socially irresponsible advertisements respectively. Profit Accumulator meanwhile was found to have breached the same and, in addition to this, to have falsely implied that they were acting as a consumer.
The advertisement in question was an email for the online casino Pink Casino. The subject line of the email stated “100% Losses Back + Free Scratchcard”. Further down the email was an offer for a “Deal or No Deal” scratchcard game. Beneath the scratchcard game’s logo text stated “One Free Game! Don’t forget to also claim your free Deal or No Deal scratchcard! No deposit required, just opt in with code DEAL and start scratching!**”. The asterisks led to text at the bottom of the email that stated “Offer only available to those in receipt of this email. Opt in with code DEAL before 23:59 Sunday 30th July. Free scratchcard will be awarded as £1 bonus with 10x wagering requirement”. The complainant – who claimed that they opted in to the promotion but then had their cash winnings from elsewhere on the website taken as part of the scratchcard’s wagering requirements - challenged whether the claim that the game was “free” was misleading.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand from the advertisement that they were entitled to a free game, with no cost involved in taking advantage of the offer. However, Pink casino’s bonus mechanism worked such that the £1 bonus was granted to the player’s bonus balance and cash was always taken from the consumer’s cash balance before the money in the bonus balance – meaning that if the player had deposited cash, they would have to spend this before using the bonus. In addition to this, while the bonus was “active” any cash wagered on the website went towards the wagering requirements that applied to the bonus. If the wagering requirements were not met then money from the cash balance would be taken by Pink Casino. The ASA found, therefore, that some consumers could lose money taking part in the promotion and that the claim “free” was misleading and in breach of rule 3.1 of the CAP Code as a result.
Click here to see the full Pink Casino ruling.
The ASA investigated the use of the brand name “Rehab Bingo” on the website www.rehabbingo.co.uk and a paid-for-search advertisement on Google on the basis that the use of the brand both condoned socially irresponsible gambling behaviour and suggested that gambling could provide an escape from personal problems.
Despite Broadway explaining that the brand was launched by the Rehab Group – a registered charity which provided services such as health and social care, training, employment and rehabilitation for adults, children, those with disabilities and socially disadvantaged individuals – and that a percentage of all funds raised from the website went towards funding for the charity, the ASA ruled against the operator. The ASA found that the branding and advertisement suggested that online bingo was a form of rehab and were therefore socially irresponsible and suggestive of an escape from personal problems. The advertisements were ruled to be in breach of rules 16.1, 16.3.1 and 16.3.3 of the CAP Code.
Click here for the full Broadway Gaming ruling.
The ASA investigated the following in respect of the matched betting service Profit Accumulator:
a) The website www.profitaccumulator.co.uk, which stated on the homepage “The process can be repeated on new offers every day, generating a sustainable income” and on a separate page “Get involved. Earn thousands with matched betting guaranteed”.
b) A page on the website www.matchedbettingcentre.com (which was operated by an affiliate of Profit Accumulator), which included a review for the matched betting company OddsMonkey and stated “In conclusion, our personal view is that we would NOT recommend OddsMonkey … Instead, we highly recommend that you give Profit Accumulator a try instead”.
c) Similarly, a page on another affiliate-owned website (www.matchedbettingbasics.com), which also included a review for OddsMonkey. This was headed “Is it a scam?” and concluded “What we say: OddsMonkey certainly has some good features. The software is a particular strength and the lower monthly rating is tempting. However, Profit Accumulator has more sign-up and existing customer offers, a better forum and more video tutorials, so its’ worth a little bit of extra cash per month …”.
d) A paid-for ad on Facebook, which claimed “What would you do with some extra money?” followed by “I paid off my credit card”.
A member of the public challenged whether the claim in advert (a) that a consumer could “Earn thousands with matched betting guaranteed” was misleading. Despite the operator providing details of one example of a player doing so, this did not contain any supporting evidence and the ASA did not consider that a single example was sufficient to substantiate the claim. They found the advert to be in breach of rules 3.1 and 3.7 of the CAP Code as a result.
The regulator also challenged whether the claim “The process can be repeated on new offers every day, generating a sustainable income” in the same ad was irresponsible because it suggested that gambling could be an alternative to employment or a way to achieve financial security. Another member of the public also argued that the claim “What would you do with some extra money?... I paid off my credit card” in ad (d) was irresponsible because as it suggested that gambling could be a solution to financial problems. Profit Accumulator argued that their service was not a gambling service and that therefore the CAP Code rules which covered gambling did not apply. The Gambling section of the CAP Code applies to marketing communications that feature or promote gambling, and the link between Profit Accumulator’s services and gambling was sufficient for the ASA to find that the rules did apply. Consequently they found the advert in breach of rules 16.1 and 16.3.4.
Finally, OddsMonkey claimed that the reviews of their services in adverts (b) and (c) were misleading on the grounds that they were neither impartial nor independent. The ASA considered that both websites were operating on behalf of Profit Accumulator and that Profit Accumulator was therefore the marketer. The ASA held that, even if the websites had prominently stated that they did so, the ads still breached the CAP Code on the basis that the reviews appeared to have been written by consumers. They were, therefore, found to be in breach of rule 2.3 of the Cap Code which prohibits marketing communications from falsely claiming or implying that the marketer is acting as a consumer.
Click here for the full Profit Accumulator ruling.