ASA bans Sky Bet's Request a Bet ad

13 March 2019

The UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has ordered Sky Bet to withdraw a television commercial for its Request a Bet service after ruling that the advert could encourage irresponsible gambling behaviour.

Seen on August 30, 2018, the advert featured Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling in front of a large screen displaying various odds and statistics, as well as a graphic of brain waves emanating from his head.

In the ad, Stelling said: “Forget ‘anything can happen’, in sport anything does happen. But could it be better? With Request a Bet it could. Spark your sports brain and roll all the possibilities into one bet. Three red cards, seven corners, five goals: lets price that up. Or browse hundreds of request a bets on our app. The possibilities are humongous. How big is your sports noggin? Sky Bet, Britain’s most popular online bookmaker. When the fun stops, stop.”

Two complainants said the advert implied that those with a good knowledge of sports were likely to experience gambling success, and therefore challenged whether the ad was irresponsible.

In response to the complaints, Sky Bet said the references to knowledge - “spark your sports brain” and “how big is your sports noggin - referred to consumers using this knowledge to build their own bet using Request a Bet.

Sky Bet said customers could choose a number of parameters to create a bet and they would use knowledge of the relevant sport in order to do that. The operator also noted that the ad made no reference to knowledge increasing the chances of winning and only focused on the possibilities of customers building their bet.

In addition, Sky Bet said the line “in sports anything can happen” emphasised that the outcome of bets are not guaranteed and the ad made no reference to knowledge of sports increasing gambling success.

Further to this, Sky Bet said it was accepted that knowledge of a sport would increase chances of success, with many consumers researching and studying sports to gain an “edge” over the bookmaker.

Sky Bet said its own trading team uses the information to set the odds of specific outcomes and therefore customers who generally would have access to the same information would potentially be able to predict the odds of a specific outcome to a similar degree.

Clearcast, a non-governmental organisation that pre-approves ads for British television, supported Sky Bet, saying the ad was in line with similar sports betting treatment, with the focus being on excitement and possibilities within sports for fans, rather than the outcome of the bet or the possibilities of winning. 

Clearcast also noted that while voiceover invited the viewer to consider all of the different outcomes of a game, it made the point that “anything does happen”, so there is no way to predict what would actually happen in a game, even with a good knowledge of the sport.

Therefore, Clearcast said it did not believe the ad was irresponsible or promised guaranteed success for those who followed the game.

However, the ASA disagreed with both Sky Bet and Clearcast, saying that various elements of the ad meant it placed strong emphasis on how sports knowledge can help improve the chances of betting success.

In its assessment, the ASA cited the use of statements such as “spark your sports brain” and “how big is your sports noggin”, as well as the decision to feature a famous sports presenter, who viewers would recognise as having an expertise in sports, and on-screen graphics used to depict brain waves and various odds.

The ASA said while those with knowledge of a particular sport may be more likely to experience success when betting, it considered that the advert gave an “erroneous perception of the extent of a gambler’s control over betting success, by placing undue emphasis on the role of sports knowledge”.

As a result, the ASA said this gave consumers an “unrealistic and exaggerated perception of the level of control they would have over the outcome of a bet and that could lead to irresponsible gambling behaviour”.

The ASA concluded that the ad breached its guidelines and ordered Sky Bet not to broadcast the advert in its current form again. The watchdog also told the operator to ensure that any future ads do not condone or encourage gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible.

The ruling comes after the ASA and Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) last month published a revised list of standards designed to help protect children and young people in the UK.

The standards prohibit online gambling ads targeting individuals who are likely to be under 18, based on data about their online interests and browsing behaviour.

Image: Al Ibrahim