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Betfred avoids irresponsible gambling ad breach

Published on 05 July 2019

When does an ad showing characters gambling during everyday activities cross the socially responsible line in the BCAP Code?

The ad

Online betting company Betfred advertised its online bingo games, which are available on mobile devices, by depicting characters playing bingo on their phone while completing everyday tasks. The ad depicted two characters: a woman playing mobile bingo while exercising, and a man playing while preparing a meal. Further, the ad included the following voiceover, which linked the online game back to the activities the characters were carrying out:

Love to chill in the bath? Make it a thrill and laugh with Betfred bingo. Forget those two little ducks, soak up the action and win big bucks. You can even join in whilst making the tea with games from as little as just 1p!

The complaint

The BCAP Code states that marketing communications for gambling must not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible, or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm. Further, it also states that marketing communications for gambling must not portray gambling as indispensable or as taking priority in life, for example over family, friends or professional or educational commitments.

The complainant, having viewed the television ad on 20 January 2019, complained that the ad normalised gambling, by showing the characters gambling while carrying out every day activities. As such, the complainant argued that the ad was socially irresponsible. 

The response

Betfred argued that the ad did not encourage excessive gambling, and noted that gambling was not shown as the sole activity undertaken in the home environment. Further, the ad depicted gambling across a range of situations, instead of portraying one character whose life included gambling during a range of daily activities; viewers would not perceive gambling as having taken priority over the characters’ daily lives.

In addition, Betfred argued that the ad did not portray gambling as an indispensable activity, or that enjoyment of life was changed by gambling. There was no insinuation that gambling is favourable over other social activities, nor did the ad promote unrealistic positive or negative emotions. Finally, the ad did not promote high stakes gambling, or depict characters who were isolated from family, friends, work or education.

The decision

The ASA concluded that the ad did not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible, or portray gambling as indispensable or as taking priority in life and as such, did not breach the BCAP Code. The ASA decided that the ad did not focus on characters gambling instead of undertaking daily tasks, but rather portrayed characters as using the online betting app in conjunction with daily activities. 

Why is this important?

The ASA stressed that the most important factor in their decision making was that Betfred’s ad did not portray gambling as taking priority over character’s lives. This is clearly the most important consideration when deciding if an ad of this nature is socially irresponsible contrary to the BCAP Code.

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