Betfair escapes ASA punishment over TV advert

The UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has ruled that a Betfair television advert did not breach its guidelines and the online gambling operator will not face any punishment.


The UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has ruled that a Betfair television advert did not breach its guidelines and the online gambling operator will not face any punishment. The ad aired in November last year, showing a man checking his mobile phone and walking down the street, before entering a ‘secret’ door into a room with a large screen that showed horse racing, filled with other people and complete with atmospheric music. A voice-over stated: “My gut says that horse is something special and my smarts say to back it on the Betfair Exchange where I get bigger returns than if I bet with one of these other bookies. That's why I go to Betfair. Betfair, where gut instinct meets smarts.” A single complainant challenged whether the reference to ‘smarts’ in context of focusing on the excitement of betting by an aspirational figure was irresponsible because it exploited the susceptibilities of young men. Responding to the claim, Betfair said its aim was to showcase that it offers better value for money than other operators, with the background music and pace of the ad reflecting this intention. Betfair also noted no bets were placed during the ad, so there was no suggestion gambling took priority in the man’s life. Betfair denied the advert exploited the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of under 18s or other vulnerable people. The operator said the main character was not an aspirational figure, and although he was dressed smartly, he had no obvious signs of wealth. Clearcast, a non-governmental organisation that pre-approves ads for British television, backed up this response, saying the reference to ‘smarts’ was only in relation to taking advantage of the good returns offered by the bookmaker. In addition, Clearcast said the voice-over took a “pragmatic and matter of fact approach”, instead of showing the man making a rash and irresponsible bet. Finally, Clearcast said that the man was portrayed as “one of many unremarkable people in a fantastical location designed to be a metaphor for the 'community' of customers using the app”, noting that he was not shown to be held in high regard by those around him. The ASA was satisfied with the response and opted not to uphold the complaint. In reference to the ‘secret’ door, the ASA said consumers would understand the scene as a representation of someone entering the Betfair community from the outside world. When the man was deciding to place a bet, with his gut saying that the horse is something special and his ‘smarts’ telling him to back it on the Betfair Exchange to get bigger returns, the ASA said he made a measured decision about where to bet, rather than believing his ‘smarts’ gave him a better chance of winning. However, the watchdog did take the man in the advert has being an aspirational figure, citing his confident demeanour throughout advert, which was exemplified when he was able to access the ‘secret’ door from the outside world, as well as his assertive nature with which he approached the screen in the room. Despite this, the ASA noted that because the reference to ‘smarts’ was made in the context of betting on the Betfair Exchange and how he came to this decision, it ruled that the ad did not breach its guidelines. As a result, Betfair will not face any punishment over the advert. The decision comes after the ASA and Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) this month

published a revised list of standardsdesigned to protect children and young people. The new standards prohibit online gambling ads targeting individuals who are likely to be under 18, based on data about their online interests and browsing behaviour.