Are free bets misleading or the regulators contradictory?

These comments were first included in an article on the Gambling Compliance website.

Wiggin partner Jason Chess spoke last week at the C5 European Online Gaming Forum in London about the issue of potentially misleading free bets and the contradictory actions of regulators in assessing them.

Jason highlighted the confusing nature of the respective adjudications using the examples of a 2014 advert promoting X Factor prizes from “Miss Dynamix”, (a teen oriented group) for Mecca Bingo, and a 2016 Ladbrokes ad featuring Iron Man. The Miss Dynamix advert survived a complaint as it appeared on an age restricted Facebook post whereas the Ladbrokes advert was barred despite only being emailed to over 18s as the marketing was deemed “likely to have particular appeal to children.”

“It’s become more difficult to give advice with any certainty, as advertising spend goes up and markets become more and more saturated,” Chess told the audience. “You’re in the realm of significant subjectivity,” he said.

“Gambling companies are seeking more advice on how to develop advertising and marketing that will attract customers and not draw the wrath of the ASA or CMA… Marketers in the UK are lucky that advertising is administered by self-regulatory codes, whereas it is a matter of law and hefty fines in some countries but, given confusion generated by rulings on age gating of ads, some would question whether the ASA’s rulings are consistent and fair.”

Jason was joined at C5’s forum by Andrew Taylor, regulatory policy executive with the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP).  Taylor promised that regulators would shortly give advice on appropriateness in different venues or platforms saying “We appreciate it is difficult…but companies making free bet offers that are misleading, or even offers of enhanced odds which deceive, cannot expect leniency”.