Advertising Standards Authority in the UK Setting Strict Advertising Standards

In the UK the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) is charges with making sure advertising meets certain standards and protects the public from deceptive advertising. The ASA has set strict ethical standards and many gaming companies have run afoul of the agency. Several internet bingo companies have had their ads pulled after complaints by customers. In fact one television ad for an internet bingo site was pulled on the basis of one complaint! For Americans it is probably hard to understand why in a nation of millions one complaint could result in an ad ban.

888 has once again run afoul of the regulatory agency with a recent television ad and promotion. Last year the company was targeted by the ASA after it ran ads implying that players could win £5million pounds playing a single free online bingo game. Ads for the promotion titled the Golden Ticket campaign were pulled after complaints. 888’s most recent television ads for a promotion stating that “£ 8,888,888 could be yours, only at 888.com. Get eight spins absolutely free. No deposit. No charge” attracted the attention of the ASA after complaints that the ad was deceptive. On screen text for the promotion stated, “T&C apply. No deposit required. Registrants post 12/07 only.”

On the basis of one complaint the ASA held that it was false advertising because the ad failed to disclose wagering requirements. The wagering requirements were not mentioned in the television ad. Other internet bingo operators doing business in the UK should take note of the ASA’s ruling. Some internet bingo sites have very strict wagering requirements that make it difficult for players to withdraw their winnings. At the present time internet bingo sites located in ‘white list’ countries are allowed to advertise in the UK but the government may change that and require all bingo sites doing business in the UK to be regulated by the Gambling Commission.

888 said that new players could participate in games and win £8 the million pound jackpot without having to make a deposit but that there were other prizes with different conditions. In a statement 888 said, “The overall promotion included a number of other prizes in addition to the £ 8,888,888 jackpot and it was possible to win smaller prizes up to £50 with the free spins but, in those cases, there were certain additional conditions that had to be met before those prizes could be cashed.” The ASA adjudicator would have none of it and stated, “Because the ad did not make clear that the spins were only free in limited circumstances, we concluded that the ad was misleading. The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising), 3.10 (Qualifications) and 3.25 (Free claims), and must not be broadcast again in its current form.” It would appear that the ASA is serious about protecting the public!