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ASA ruling on using under 25s in betting ads - BetIndex Limited

Published on 07 November 2019

Can a gambling ad use the image of a person who is under the age of 25? What if they are not singled out in the ad ie they do not seem to be playing a 'significant role' in the ad?

The key takeaway

Take great care using under 25 year olds in betting or gambling ads (yes, that includes famous young footballers!).  Even though you may not be particularly singling them out, they are likely to still be held to be playing a 'significant role' (and therefore in breach of the CAP Code). 

The ad

An ad appeared on Facebook promoting the company Football INDEX (Bet & Trade), a football player trading company (based on a real stock market).  The ad, which showed the names, images and BetIndex stock values of many footballers included Jadon Sancho. The ad stated “Jadon Sancho is now the football stockmarket’s third most valuable player, with many traders seeing handsome profits” as well as “Sancho The Big Mover” which was at the bottom of the ad. 

The complaint

The challenge arose as the complainant noticed that the ad consisted of players who were under 25 years old and so contended that the ad was irresponsible.

The response

BetIndex , withdrawing the ad, admitted that Jadon Sancho had played a significant role in the ad that appeared on Facebook and promised to both train their staff and make sure that future ads would not contain players under 25 in a significant role.  They did, however, argue that the images of the young players, such as Sancho, Sterling, Hudson-Odoi etc solely illustrated the players that were available on the app and were used to depict the actual features of BetIndex. As such, BetIndex contended that the images did not constitute the players in a “significant role” and that this element should not fall foul of the CAP code. BetIndex suggested that no single football player was focused on and none of the players were gambling in the ad. 

The decision

The CAP Code states that “no one who is or seems to be under 25 years old may be featured gambling or playing a significant role”. However, there is an exception “that individuals who are, or seem to be under 25 years old (18-24 years old) may be featured playing a significant role only in marketing communications that appear in a place where a bet can be placed directly through a transactional facility, for instance, a gambling operator's own website. The individual may only be used to illustrate specific betting selections where that individual is the subject of the bet offered. The image or other depiction used must show them in the context of the bet and not in a gambling context”.

The ASA considered that the ad had dual purposes, to both depict the nature of the app to the consumer but also of equal importance to offer the consumer the opportunity to gamble. In the context of gambling, and as shown in the recent case where Tottenham Hotspurs included a number of under 25 year old players in a gambling ad (see our Summer 2019 snapshots), all of the players who featured in the ad were held to play a significant role in the marketing communication to the consumer, including the players that were under 25; it did not matter that one player was not drawn out for specific focus. In fact, the ASA did not even consider that Jadon Sancho, who was described by the text at the top and bottom of the ad, was playing more of a significant role than the others. Finally, the ASA held that the ad had not appeared on a site where a bet could be placed, such as the BetIndex app and that the players shown had not been used to illustrate the specific betting selections where they were the subject of the bet.  As a result, the ad was held to have breached the CAP code. 

Why is this important

This case reinforces how careful gambling operators and alcohol companies (who have similar restrictions) need to be when including persons under the age of 25 in their ads. As stated above, even where there are a number of persons under 25 featured in the ad who are deemed to be in a significant role but may have not been the centre of attention, it is likely that this will result in all persons playing in a significant role rather than none at all. 

Practical tips

If you wish to place an individual under the age of 25 in a gambling ad, make sure that the ad is placed in a location where a customer can make a bet and ensure that where the individual is used they are only there to illustrate specific betting selections where they are the subject of the bet offered. The image or other depiction used must show them in the context of the bet and not in the gambling context.