ASA bans "irresponsible" Coral and BetIndex ads

18 September 2019

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned advertisements from Coral Interactive and Football Index operator BetIndex deemed to promote irresponsible gambling. Both advertisements may not appear again in their current form, with each company instructed to ensure their marketing communications do not promote harmful behaviour in the future.

Bookmaker Coral Interactive, owned by GVC Holdings, was sanctioned for a June advertisement promoting its “Bet and Get Club,” in which bettors can receive a free £5 bet for betting £25 during the previous week. The advertisement — which included a man and a woman playing chess and a voiceover promoting the “Bet and Get Club” — featured large text on screen reading, “Free £5 bet every Sunday when you bet £25+ Monday to Saturday.”

The advertisement received a complaint, which argued that promoting the potential of a bonus every week encouraged players to gamble irresponsibly by increasing the frequency of their betting.

Coral argued that, as a customer was able to opt out from the promotion, they did not believe it promoted irresponsible betting. It noted that customers did not have to bet large amounts in order to qualify, adding that all Coral customers were monitored for responsible gambling purposes. Ad approval service Clearcast said it was for these reasons that it initially approved the advertisement.

However, the ASA chose to uphold the complaint, ruling that while players could opt out of the promotion, the wording of the ad was still likely to encourage irresponsible gambling among some customers.

“We acknowledged that the Bet and Get Club promotion did not require consumers to bet every day, or every week,” the ASA explained. “However, we considered that the suggestion that viewers should ‘join’ a ’club’ in order to receive a free £5 bet ‘every’ Sunday was likely to encourage some consumers to take up the offer repetitively. For that reason, we concluded that the ad was likely to encourage gambling behaviour that was harmful and therefore breached the Code.”

BetIndex, owner of “football stock market” Football Index, was sanctioned for a sponsored video titled “How to make money from Football Index”, which appeared on football magazine FourFourTwo’s YouTube channel in June. A complainant argued that the video suggested Football Index was a reliable source of income and an investment opportunity, rather than fully outlining the risks involved.

BetIndex argued that the advertisement made the risks clear through description of Football Index as a “football stock market,” which they argued viewers should understand carries a risk, and as a “long ongoing bet,” which they said makes clear the product is gambling and not an investment.

The company added that while player value graphs shown in the video trended upwards, they included downward fluctuations and that their number one tip in the video was to learn the rules of the game and understand that players may lose money. BetIndex said they had also changed the title of the video to “Football Index: How to make money trading & betting on the football stock market” to further clarify that it was a gambling product.

The ASA upheld the complaint, however, ruling that the title and the early stages of the video use repeated stock market terminology to suggest that Football Index is more of an investment opportunity than a betting service. The video also focused on payouts and customers’ ability to make money from the service, the ad watchdog added, which suggested it could be used as a reliable source of income.

The ASA also ruled that while their were references to values on Football Index declining, the advertisement presented the product in a way that suggested customers could still expect to make money from the platform.

“We also acknowledged BetIndex’s comments that consumers would recognise that the value of stock market investments went up and down and that it was expressly stated in the ad that ‘any market prices naturally go up and down’.” the ASA said. “However, we considered that the substantial discussion around how money could be generated from the platform created the impression that the product was a lucrative investment opportunity.”

Both the original and amended advertisements must not appear again in their current forms, and BetIndex was warned about its future conduct.

In August, Football Index was sanctioned for its use of underage footballers to promote its service.