Pressure is growing on the gambling industry to clean up its act after the ad watchdog upheld complaints against Ladbrokes, 888, SkyBet and Casumo over ads placed by affiliates, that targeted vulnerable people with “fake news” claims about a punter who cleared his debts and paid for his wife’s medical treatment by playing online casino games.
One of the ads, which appeared on three websites, referred to “William”, who was £130,000 in debt after having to sell his house to pay for his wife’s cancer-related medical bills.
It went on to explain how “William” stumbled upon an ad for Sky Vegas when he logged in to Facebook in the hospital lobby to update his friends and family on his wife’s health.
The ad stated: “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.” It then claimed the man had won “over 30 times his annual salary in a single spin,” adding that “his debt and financial worries came to an abrupt end”.
The ads sparked a number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, which branded the campaign “socially irresponsible” as it targeted vulnerable people.
The watchdog said the ads breached the UK non-broadcast advertising code because they suggested gambling “could provide an escape from personal problems such as depression and that it could be a solution to financial concerns”. It also ruled that the ads gave the incorrect impression that they were genuine news articles.
And despite all four companies denying any prior knowledge of the campaign, the ASA warned all four that future ads, including those prepared by affiliates, must be clearly identifiable as marketing communications and prepared in a socially responsible way.
Last week, Sky Betting & Gaming pulled the plug on its affiliate marketing programme just days after claims that some affiliate sites deliberately push long-odds bets as they can earn huge commission from bookmakers on the losses their followers make.
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