ASA upholds marketing complaint against 888

Simona Boshkova | Published 11 Nov 2021, 12:10 p.m.

In the past few months, there have been certain complaints and sanctions against gaming operators. For example, the UK Gambling Commission suspended BGO’s operating licence for consumer protection failures. 

The regulator has also fined VGC Leeds Limited for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures. The measures are part of the UKGC’s ongoing work to maintain a safer gambling market.

Recently, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld marketing complaints against 888 Holdings for an ad posted by an affiliate marketing site.

ASA found the ad was misleading

The ad in question promoted 888 brand 777.com and it was advertised on www.betterdeals.live on 14 June 2021. The ad included a text saying “77 Free Spins (*T&C’s apply) ENABLED FOR ANOTHER” and it had a countdown timer from three minutes. However, the offer didn’t end when the timer reached zero.

The above-mentioned advertisement received many complaints about the countdown timer. After the complaints, the ASA looked into whether the countdown timer was misleading, by suggesting that the free spins were time-limited.

To this, 888 argued that the ad was posted without its knowledge. The company added that it identified the ad on 2 July and instructed the affiliate to remove it. After that, 888 suspended all campaigns with that affiliate.

Despite this, ASA decided to uphold the complaint against 888, determining that the company was responsible as the beneficiary of the marketing material. The Authority commented:

“We considered that consumers would understand that the countdown timer would relate to a specific time limitation in which the “77 Free Spins” promotion needed to be claimed and that once it ran down to zero the offer would no longer be available.

“However, we understood that if the page was refreshed, the timer would reset to start counting down from three minutes again. Therefore, because the promotion was not time-limited, we concluded the ad was misleading.”

The complaint was accompanied by two more claims that “casinos are trying to shut down a free Android app” and “that’s allowing everyday people, like Simona Moron, to win huge progressive jackpots using nothing but free spins.”

However, the ASA said that 777.com had no evidence to support these claims and, as a result, deemed the ad misleading on both counts.

Sportsbet fined for gambling advertising breaches

In the meantime, another operator has been found guilty of gambling advertising breaches. It’s the Australian online operator Sportsbet that has been fined AU$135,000 (US$99,463) by the Liquor and Gaming NSW.

The investigation found that Sportsbet account holders received forbidden gambling advertisements in the period between October 2020 and March 2021. These users have withdrawn consent to further receive direct marketing offers and have tried multiple times to unsubscribe from the communications.

According to the Betting and Racing Act, it’s illegal to provide gambling advertisements directly after the account holder has withdrawn consent to receive such materials. 

Liquor and Gaming’s Compliance Director, Marcel Savary, said:

“Research by the NSW Office of Responsible Gambling in 2020 revealed the vast majority of the community is not happy with the current style of wagering advertising, with 81% believing gambling advertising increases the risk of people developing a gambling problem.

"Participation in most forms of gambling in NSW is declining but online betting is increasing with 70% of all sports betting and 37% of race betting now carried out online. Liquor & Gaming NSW consistently expresses concerns to industry about gambling advertising and will continue to monitor compliance with these laws and take strong action for serious and blatant offending.”

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