Today’s OddsMonkey decision is an important one for anyone in (or skirting around) the betting and gaming space.
OddsMonkey is not a gambling operator – it is a matched-betting software developer, advertising its product on its own website, explaining on its homepage how the use of the software can “minimise the risk associated with ordinary betting“. It isn’t surprising that the ASA took a dislike to statements such as this and labelled it socially irresponsible, given the detailed guidance they have already issued on responsibility and problem gambling and the change in ‘tone’ they expect advertisers of gambling to adopt.
As OddsMonkey stated in its response to the ASA, it had not suggested that what it was offering was a gambling product and neither had it stated that matched betting was 100% risk free – both are correct and the fact that this wasn’t a betting product (nor did the ad give the impression it was a betting product) meant that the ad did not trigger any assessment of its compliance with section 16 of the CAP Code (Gambling).
However, the ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand that matched betting was an easy method of making money online, which could allow them to earn enough to make a significant contribution to their finances overall. The ASA noted that the ad was absent any reference to any specific risks that might be involved in matched betting and the statement “Because matched betting isn’t gambling; it’s about maximising your profit potential with the original developers of the UK’s leading software” presented the service in a context of relative risk compared to traditional betting, which contributed to an overall impression that there was very little to no risk to users’ money when engaging in matched betting – the ASA, therefore, found OddsMonkey in breach of rule 1.3 (social responsibility).
This could be a decision worth noting for gambling affiliates, who are often in the business of providing tutorials, reviews, and comparisons of betting operators’ offers and promotions. If these features are promoted in such a way as to downplay the risks associated with gambling, or described in a way so as to suggest that there is ‘free’ money available from a preferred operator, affiliates could start to move into the territory of self-promotion. If this self-promotion is not socially responsible (e.g. the site suggests that by using the comparison service consumers will “get the best offers” or “increase their free bet balance“), without highlighting the conditions or otherwise downplaying the risk, there is potential for them to also be in breach of rule 1.3.
Given the sector-specific rules, the first section of the CAP Code is often given little attention – this decision serves as an important reminder that ALL marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility and society.