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UK Watchdog ASA Raps Online Gambling Firms over Affiliate Ads

- September 13, 2017 By Oliver Young -

Four operators are to be held responsible for misleading “fake news” created by “socially irresponsible” affiliates.

UK advertising watchdog ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) has upheld complaints against four UK-facing online operators this Wednesday over advertisements put up by the casinos’ affiliates which “targeted vulnerable people”. According to reports, online firms 888, SkyBet, Casumo and Ladbrokes are to possibly face fines over affiliate adverts disguised as news articles that targeted the said group of individuals. The warning comes only a week after Labour Party Deputy Tom Watson called for a ban on football shirt sponsorships by UK bookmakers.

One Affiliate Advertisement to Blame

All four operators were slammed by the ASA for different articles that appeared on several affiliate websites between the months of March and June in 2017 and shared an almost identical narrative. The “advertorial”, as it was labeled by the affiliate, detailed the story of a man called William who amassed a debt of £130,000 for paying the hospital bills of his cancer-affected wife, even after selling his house.

The story reportedly went on to say that William saw a gambling ad for Sky Vegas on Facebook while waiting in the hospital but almost dismissed it laughingly since he was short on money, until he saw the promotion was “too hard to pass up”. By claiming the promotion, the story says he was able to win more than 30 times his yearly salary in a single spin, thus putting an end to his financial problems.  Similar gambling victories were discussed in the comment section on the article advertising the promotion while three other almost identical articles were used for the other operators.

The ASA upheld complaints on the accounts of the articles being “socially irresponsible”. The Advertising Authority also found the ads to be in breach of UK’s non-broadcast advertising code since they were suggesting one could escape depression or financial problems by gambling, but also them not being clear enough whether they were real news updates or promotional content.

Operators Were Not Aware of the Adverts

The concerned operators responded to the accusations by stating that the articles were created without their knowledge. The operators have also reportedly terminated their agreements with the affiliates who used such means to promote their offers while issuing warnings to other affiliates not to go the same way.  A Ladbrokes representative called the material “fake news”, while 888 announced they have taken steps to make sure such a thing won’t happen again.

Responding to the operators, the ASA stated that while a third-party affiliate has produced the article they are holding the betting firms responsible since the main beneficiaries of the promotional material were the operators themselves.

The UKGC has been adamant about pursuing operators who didn’t respect the advertising policies during the past months, announcing a tougher stance on breaches right from the beginning of the year.  Online operator BGO was one recipient of a fine for misleading advertising and the penalty also took into consideration the casino’s affiliate network. However, no comments have been made about whether penalties are being considered for this group of operators.

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