On 17 April 2019, the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) published a ruling on Petfre (Gibraltar) Ltd t/a Betfred in relation to a TV ad's compliance with the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising ("BCAP Code").

The complaint was not upheld by the ASA after they found that the ad did not breach BCAP Code provisions that state that marketing communications for gambling must not portray gambling as indispensable or as taking priority in life or portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.

The Ad

The ad in question showed a woman in the bath, a man preparing a meal (who threw food into the air when he won a prize) and a woman exercising, each of whom was also playing online bingo on mobile devices. The ad included a voice-over stating:

“Love to chill in the bath? Make it a thrill and a laugh with Betfred bingo. Forget those two little ducks, soak up the action and win big bucks. You can even join in whilst making the tea with games from as little as just 1p. Play with Betfred bingo and enjoy top promotions such as daily free bingo games, bonus back and more. Put the fun back into house. Kick back and bingo with Betfred”.

The complaint related to whether the ad was irresponsible due to it normalising gambling by showing individuals gambling whilst going about daily activities.

Betfred responded to the complaint, claiming that, as per the BCAP Code, the ad did not portray gambling as being indispensable or taking priority in life. They said that the people included in the ad were playing bingo whilst going about other routine activities, they were not prioritising it by playing bingo instead of doing other things and their enjoyment of their other activities was not affected by the fact they were gambling. Betfred also stated that the ad showed a range of activities being undertaken by a variety of different people – there was not just one person playing bingo whilst going about all the activities – and that gambling was not suggested to be an important part of any of them.

Betfred further argued that the ad did not show the individuals as isolated or gambling as something which people should hide and instead featured social interaction within the chatroom.

Clearcast also did not think that the ad showed gambling as being indispensable as there was no suggestion that it was necessary for the people to be gambling whilst doing the other activities shown and the individuals were not shown ignoring other commitments. Clearcast also highlighted that the ad did not show one person gambling whilst doing various activities but several people, each gambling whilst doing one other thing.

Betfred claimed that the ad did not promote high-stakes gambling and Clearcast also said that the stakes involved were small and that the ad mentioned games that were free or of minimal cost.

The Decision

The ASA did not find that the ad was in breach of the BCAP Code, specifically rules 17.3.1 and 17.3.4.

The ASA believed that the ad showed people gambling whilst going about their daily life instead of prioritising gambling over routine activities and that gambling was not shown as being indispensable to them. Although the ASA did consider the exaggerated reaction of the man who won a prize whilst preparing a meal – and was temporarily distracted from doing so – they did not feel that this was to the extent that the ad showed gambling as taking priority.

A link to the full ASA decision can be found here.