Bookmakers sanctioned by ASA for irresponsible ‘fake news’ promotions

Business News

Four of Britain’s online bookmakers are facing sanctions after the Advertising Standards Authority upheld complaints that Ladbrokes, 888, Sky Bet and Casumo had ‘targeted vulnerable people’ with adverts purporting to be news.

The advert in question depicted the case of ‘William’ who was said to be £130k in debt and unable to pay his wife’s medical bills before ‘stumbling upon an ad for Sky Vegas’ while on Facebook.

The ‘socially irresponsible’ ad went on: “With little to no money to spend he admits he laughed and almost scrolled past it until he saw they were offering a promotion that would reward him with £10 free at the Jackpot 7 game, which at over £700,000 was too hard to pass up.”

For its coup de gras the fanciful promotion alleged that ‘William’ went onto win ‘over 30 times his annual salary in a single spin’. Such tall tales drew scorn not only from the ASA but also the opposition Labour party which have called for ‘strong’ action to be taken.

Such adverts operate in a grey area however with bookmakers and casinos paying ‘affiliates’ to drum up business for them, allowing Ladbrokes, 888, Skybet and Casumo to deny condoning or having approved the ads.

A Ladbrokes spokesperson said: “Nobody in Ladbrokes Coral believes that this sort of ‘fake news’ marketing has a place in the sector.

“We have been reducing the number of affiliates we work with as well as clamping down hard on anyone using our name without our knowledge in a bid to curtail this sort of activity going forward.”

In a statement the ASA said the advert, and three similar variations, broke the UK non-broadcast advertising code by suggesting that gambling offered an ‘escape from personal problems such as depression and that it could be a solution to financial concerns.’ It also found that the piece conveyed an incorrect impression of being a news item.

The gambling industry is also exposing children to record numbers of ads according to recent data, following a boom in marketing spend.