Online gaming operators 888, Ladbrokes, Sky Vegas and Casumo were contacted by the ASA following complaints about their respective ads, all of which depicted a broke and depressed man gambling as a way to reverse his fortune. Such tall tales drew scorn not only from the ASA but also the opposition Labour party which have called for "strong" action to be taken. William took to Facebook one night in the hospital lobby to update his friends and family on his wife's health ...
"With little to no money to spend he admits he laughed and nearly scrolled past it until he saw they were offering a promotion that would reward him with £10 free at the Jackpot 7 game, which at over £700,000 was too hard to pass up".
For its coup de gras the fanciful promotion alleged that "William" went onto win "over 30 times his annual salary in a single spin".
The Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) launched investigations after receiving five complaints about an ad for 888 Casino that suggesting that gambling could provide an escape from depression and was a solution to financial concerns.
The ASA upheld complaints against the "socially irresponsible" advert and three nearly identical adverts that used the same narrative but named 888, Ladbrokes and Casumo instead.
It concluded: "The ad must not appear again in its current form".
The Commission has fined betting firms BGO and Lottoland over misleading adverts, including those placed by affiliates, but declined to say whether it was considering penalties for Ladbrokes, SkyBet, 888 and Casumo.
Ladbrokes said its ad was created by an affiliate and had been removed.
"Nobody in Ladbrokes Coral believes that this sort of "fake news" marketing has a place in the sector".
"We have been reducing the number of affiliates we work with as well as clamping down hard on anyone using our name without our knowledge in a bid to curtail this sort of activity going forward". A good example of this is sports betting operator Paddy Power, who recently issued revised communication criteria to their affiliates clamping down on SMS, email and advertorial style marketing containing the Paddy Power brand. "The behaviour of these affiliates has brought the sector into disrepute and steps need to be taken to ensure this doesn't happen again".
In each case, the advert was not provided to the operator for clearance and was published by the affiliate, whilst the operator was completely unaware. Casumo blamed an external "media buyer".
Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association, welcomed the ASA's response, saying: "It was clearly the right decision and the companies involved were quite rightly quick to acknowledge their failings".