ASA Bans Foxy Games Ad

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint made against a Foxy Games advert, deeming it “irresponsible”. However, it rejected a complaint against a Betfair Casino advert. The ASA is responsible for regulating the UK’s advertising industry by investigating complaints and ensuring that ads are in line with standards codes.

A man points a TV remote control, while a woman eats popcorn.

Some MPs have called for an outright ban on gambling adverts. ©JESHOOTS.com/Pexels

“Socially Irresponsible”

The ASA has issued its response to complaint it received over an advert for online casino site, Foxy Games. The complainant raised concerns over the paid-for Google search ad, which was seen on July 11th, 2020. The advert appeared when the term “make money online” was entered. It also made the call to action “Earn Money Online – Foxy Games – Play Online”.

The complaint received by the ASA questioned whether the wording in this advert could be judged irresponsible, based on the suggestion that the online casino’s games could offer consumers financial security. After investigating the Foxy Games ad, the ASA decided to uphold this complaint. It ruled that the advert breached CAP Code (Edition 12) 16.1 and 16.3.4.

According to that Code, advertisers are prohibited from offering gambling as a solution to financial problems, as a form of employment or as a way to gain financial security. The “Earn Money Online” tagline broke this code by suggesting that consumers could make a steady income by playing on the Foxy Games casino site. This idea also suggested that financial security was possible.

The ASA added that the advertiser did take action to tackle where its adverts appeared, on receiving the formal complaint. Despite this, the ASA was still forced to rule that the advert had breached advertising standards codes and that it was socially irresponsible. This means that ElectraWorks Ltd, which runs the Foxy Games brand, must not air the same advert again.

The operator has also been warned that future adverts must not suggest the idea that gambling can lead to financial security. ElectraWorks Ltd is a subsidiary of GVC Holdings, one of the largest betting and gaming groups in the world. In June, another GVC brand was also punished over a breach in advertising standards. The ASA upheld a complaint about a Coral advert that encouraged repeated gambling.

Betfair Ad Cleared

The ASA has also weighed in on a complaint it received regarding a television ad for Betfair Casino. The advert, which was seen in July 2020, depicted two men in an airport. The first man was in a hurry, running to catch his flight. The second man was happy and relaxed, drinking coffee and looking at his phone. His phone screen showed the Betfair Casino app.

While other passengers rushed around the man, he continued to play at the Betfair online casino on his phone. On approaching the gate he landed a lucrative win, while the ad’s voiceover stated “when there’s a chance, there’s always a chance”.

The complaint received by the ASA raised concerns that the Betfair advert could portray gambling as taking priority in life. The idea of others being a rush whilst the man prioritized his betting could have been judged irresponsible. However, the ASA decided not to uphold the complaint, after its investigation found that it did not breach BCAP Code rules 17.3.1 or 17.3.4.

Betfair responded to the complaint, saying that it been careful to make sure that the advert complied with advertising standards and that it had already been approved by Clearcast. The operator also defended the man’s behavior in the advert, describing him as calm, in control and aware of his surroundings.

According to the BCAP code, gambling adverts must not condone or encourage gambling behavior that is socially irresponsible, or that could cause financial or emotional harm. Adverts are also prohibited from showing gambling as taking priority over other matters in life. For this reason, the man in the advert’s demeanour was pivotal in the ASA’s decision.

According to the standards body, the fact that the man heard the final call to board over the tannoy showed that his gambling did not distract him. His lack of panic also showed that he was aware of how much time he needed to get to the flight. The voiceover seemed to suggest gambling as an activity that could be used to occupy small amounts of time. Rounding off its assessment, the ASA ruled:

“We therefore concluded that the ad did not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible, or portray gambling as indispensable or as taking priority in life.”

A Ban on Gambling Ads?

The ASA is keen to appear strict on ad breaches by gambling firms, such as the slip-up from Foxy Games. Pressure from campaigners for a crackdown on the UK’s gambling industry is growing, and some MPs have even called for an outright ban on gambling ads. An upcoming review of the 2005 Gambling Act will mean major changes for the industry, and could lead to an advertising shake-up.

The Gambling Related Harm APPG published a set of tough recommendations in its ‘Online Gambling Harm Inquiry’ report in June. As well as a ban on all gambling advertising, it called for a ban on VIP schemes, stake limits for online slots and an overhaul of the UK’s gambling laws.

Since then, a House of Lords Select Committee has also echoed the same concerns, in its on publication ‘Gambling Harm – Time for Action’. Its report made a series of key recommendations, such as licenses for gambling affiliates, a new independent gambling ombudsman and better affordability checks from online operators.

In August, the Betting and Gaming Council tightened its ad code in a bid to protect children from gambling harms. The new rules, which came into place on October 1st, say that gambling ads on social media must now be provably targeted at consumers aged over 25.

The new measures were put in place to tackle the number of gambling adverts that under-18s are exposed to, following alarming findings from the ASA. When the standards body carried out an ‘online monitoring sweep’, it discovered that 159 age-restricted adverts breached its codes.

On top of this, it found that gambling companies, together with fast food firms, were guilty of airing the most non-compliant ads to underage viewers. As a result of these findings, the ASA has committed to monitoring for this type of rule-breaking activity more frequently, every quarter.

The UK’s gambling regulator, the Gambling Commission is also playing an important role in curbing the exposure of gambling content to underage viewers. Last month it issued brand new Facebook ad guidance, which will allow users of the site to reduce the number of unwanted gambling ads they are exposed to.

Last year, the Betting and Gaming Council also brought in the ‘whistle to whistle’ ban, which prevents gambling ads from being aired during live televised sports before the watershed. Since its launch, the ban has already shown significant signs of success in curbing the number of gambling ads seen be children. According to data collected, it has led to a 97% drop in the number of gambling seen by children on TV.

The efforts of the ASA, the BGC and the Gambling Commission have already gone a long way to improve advertising standards in the UK’s gambling industry. While this is already having a positive effect in reducing gambling harms, it could also have an impact on upcoming legislative changes. For now, it remains to be seen how long gambling ads will be allowed to continue, and whether any platform will attempt to ban them.

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