Merkur Cashino avoids ASA action over bus ticket promotion

20 November 2019

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has cleared Gauselmann-owned Merkur Cashino of targeting children with its advertising, after a £5 free-play offer on the back of a bus ticket prompted a complaint against the operator.

The complaint was against a promotion that appeared on the back of a child’s bus ticket in Cotteridge, Birmingham, and read “£5 Free Plays on a machine of your choice with this ticket”.

Rule 16.3.13 of the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) states that gambling marketing must not be directed at those aged under 18, either through content or by where it appears.

Gambling advertising is deemed to be directed towards children if under 18s make up more than 25% of their audience. If a complaint is received, the marketers must prove that the number of minors likely to see the advertisement did not exceed this total.

Merkur responded to the complaint by arguing that TicketMedia, the advertising agency behind the promotion, had confirmed to them that on the bus routes on which they advertised across the UK, 23.1% of ticket-holding passengers were between 5 and 15 years of age. National Express West Midlands, which ran the bus route, said that the number of ticket-holders aged under 18 on the route was only 15% during term time and 12% during holidays.

In addition, Merkur said that the content and design of the ad had no specific appeal to under 18s, and an “over 18” symbol was included.

The ASA did not uphold the complaint, agreeing with Merkur’s judgement that while children may have seen the ads, it did not target children and was not directed at a group of which a large proportion were children.

“We considered that in areas where there might be a concentration of people under 18 (for example on a bus route which served schools) the proportion of under 18s in the ad’s audience might be higher than 25%,” the ASA said. “However, on the particular bus route identified by the complainant, the highest percentage of child-fare paper tickets issued was 15% during term time.”