October 22, 2018
A TV ad for www.21.co.uk, an online gambling site, featured a man in a tuxedo sitting at a blackjack table. The ad played a heartbeat sound whilst the voice-over stated, “His heart is pounding. His body is still. He shuffles his chips as he thinks. Heart versus head. Emotion versus reason. He makes his move.” There were close-up shots of the man’s face and of his eye, showing his pupil dilating before the dealer flipped over her final card to reveal her hand.
The complainant challenged whether the ad portrayed gambling in a context of toughness.
LeoVegas Gambling, trading as 21.co.uk, said that the ad was produced to address the concerns raised in a previous upheld ruling on the same issue. They said that they had removed a claim from the voice-over “He makes his own luck” and had removed a scene showing the character betting all his chips, in order to remove the suggestion that the character was displaying signs of mental toughness or resilience in the face of risk.
Clearcast confirmed that the ad had been amended to address the previous ruling. Clearcast said that the man in the ad was shown concentrating with a calm and neutral expression and that his demeanour was cool rather than excited and did not change throughout the ad.
The ASA noted that the ad featured stylised, dramatic effects, which emphasised that the player was in a tense, decisive moment in the game of blackjack. The player was shown tapping his fingers and his pupils were seen dilating, which the ASA considered would be interpreted as signs of excitement while playing. The ASA acknowledged that online casino games were entertainment products that involved an element of risk, and it was reasonable to expect that consumers would experience some excitement when playing responsibly.
The ASA noted that the ad did not focus on the stakes being bet, which was unknown. There was no suggestion, therefore, that the player was taking a major risk. The ASA considered that the player was experiencing a level of anticipation about his next move, which could be experienced by any player during a game of blackjack. Although the player maintained a calm demeanour throughout the ad, that alone did not amount to mental toughness or resilience, the ASA said. The ad did not, therefore, portray gambling in a context of toughness and did not breach BCAP Code rule 17.3.8 (Gambling). (ASA Ruling on LeoVegas Gaming plc (17 October 2019) — to read the Ruling in full, click here).