ASA Bans Irresponsible Gala Spins Ad

The ASA has upheld a complaint against an advert for online slot game ‘Fluffy Favourites’, on the basis that it is likely to appeal to children. The advert was for a game on Gala Spins, an online casino brand run by GVC Holdings. GVC Holdings is one of the largest gambling operators in the world, and is listed on the FTSE 100 index.

A person typing on a laptop at a small table.

The ASA’s ruling comes at a time when pressure is mounting over the impact of gambling adverts. ©Cottonbro/Pexels

Childish Appeal

The complaint received by the ASA was over a paid-for Facebook advert seen on August 12th. The advert was captioned “IT’S A ROLLERCOASTER OF CUTENESS!”, and contained a voice-over asking “What’s your spin?”. The video also mentioned Gala Spins and showed the five toy animals featured in the game. On seeing this content, the viewer made a complaint to the ASA, challenging whether this advert would particularly appeal to children.

In responses to the ASA’s investigation, Gala Spins said that posting the video was a mistake, and that it was out of date. However, it added that only over 18s were able to view content published to its Facebook account, as it is age-gated. In addition to this, viewers would have to press play and watch the advert for four seconds to see the depicted toys.

According to Gala Spins, the video was produced as part of a multi-channel campaign targeting UK women aged between 18 and 65 and already interested in online gambling. The campaign’s analytics showed that all of those who saw the advert were women aged over 18. However, Gala Spins has now removed the advert from all of its channels.

The ASA chose to uphold the complaint, describing the Gala Spins advert as “irresponsible”. The standards body has told Gala Spins that the advert cannot be used again in its current form and that future adverts must not appeal particularly to under-18s.

In its assessment, the ASA cited a CAP Code rule that states that gambling adverts must not appeal particularly to children, especially through associations with youth culture. Further to this, gambling ads mustn’t appeal more strongly to viewers below the age of 18 than to over-18s. Whilst Gala Spins had undertaken measures to target the advert at viewers aged over 18, the ASA found that there was no way of determining whether any viewers might have falsely reported their age.

The ASA then went on to analyze whether the content of the advert was likely to appeal to children. The cartoon imagery, name of the game and the ad’s caption were all found to reinforce the appeal to an underage audience. The ASA concluded that the advert did particularly appeal to under-18s and judged it as “irresponsible”. It breached both CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 16.1 and 16.3.12.

A Recurring Problem

Last month the Gambling Commission, which regulates the UK’s gambling industry, issued guidance on how users can control the adverts that they see on Facebook. The UKGC’s new guide shows those who are vulnerable to gambling harms how to adjust their social media settings to reduce their exposure to gambling adverts. The guidance is useful for others too, including those who want to limit children from seeing gambling ads on an adult’s account.

This is not the first time that Gala Spins has fallen foul of the advertising watchdog. Two years ago another of its adverts was banned, after it was found to link gambling with skill. The advert showed a man playing on a tablet, while a voiceover said “Try it now and see if you’ve got the talent”.

It is not uncommon for gambling operators to slip up when it comes to ASA rules. Earlier this month the ASA banned another advert from a GVC brand, this time from Foxy Games. That advert, which was also described as “irresponsible”, was found to present gambling as a route to financial security.

Operators could soon face even more rules when it comes to advertising. CAP, the body that applies the ASA’s advertising codes has recently proposed a ban on allowing to celebrities to appear in gambling adverts. The suggested ban would not apply to all celebrities though. As its aim is to prevent adverts from appealing to children, the idea is to stop only celebrities, social media stars and sports people that appeal to under-18s from appearing in these ads.

The CAP consultation also contains a number of other suggestions for strengthening existing rules on gambling ads. These include updating restrictions on adverts that suggest that gambling involves skill, offers financial security or is risk-free. The impact of these proposals could be far-reaching if they are taken up in the government’s long-awaited review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

Calls for Change

Campaigners and MPs have been calling on the government to overhaul the UK’s gambling legislation for years, and now the pressure is higher than ever. In June, the APPG for Gambling-Related Harm led the charge with a call for a blanket ban on gambling advertising.

The group of over 50 MPs and peers is led by Labour MP Carolyn Harris and Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith. The APPG’s proposed changes include a £2 stake limit for online slots, no more VIP schemes and a new ombudsman to replace the Gambling Commission. Since then, Harris has been pushing hard for improvements in the industry.

In her home constituency of Swansea, significant change is already afoot. Earlier this year Swansea City dropped its sponsor YoBet, a sports betting company, in favor of a partnership with Swansea University. The football club has also collaborated with The Big Step, a charity that enables speakers with real-life experience to teach communities about the risks of gambling.

Simon Dymond, a professor at Swansea University wants the Welsh government to do more to help those affected by problem gambling. Dymond has published an open letter in the Lancet journal, highlighting the need for a specialist NHS gambling addiction clinic for Welsh people. At the moment there are six such clinics in England with plans for more. However, Wales is lagging behind and does not have any.

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