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Two online gambling companies ran afoul of the UK Advertising Standards Authority this week for advertisements/promos deemed questionable and raised as complaints with the advertising watchdog.
In the case of Betfair, the latest complaint comes not long after it was censured for its mobile phone betting ad (see previous InfoPowa report).
The most recent ban concerns the betting firm's controversial 'Happy Hour' promo which set player forums across the internet alight after the company appeared to have made a too-generous offer which it subsequently withdrew, accompanied by bonus disqualifications.
A total of ten players lodged complaints about the email promo, which promised that all deposits made between 21.00 GMT to 23.59 GMT on the 13th November 2010 would be matched 50 percent up to GBP100 with a casino bonus and low wagerthru' requirements.
Judging from the ASA adjudication report at http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudications/2011/2/Betfair-Ltd/TF_ADJ_49797.aspx, Betfair did not help its own case by declining to release information that it said could prejudice its security and anti-fraud measures.
The company did reveal that after the promotion ran, it had become aware that a number of customers had displayed what it claimed was "irregular or unusual playing or betting patterns" which Betfair deemed to be abusive, and that it subsequently took action.
The firm claimed the promotion was administered with adequate resources and that, due to the limited period of three hours, during which the promotion was operative, it was not possible to analyse customers' gaming activity until the promotion had ended. It said it appreciated that complainants were disappointed but did not believe they had justifiable grounds for complaints.
The ASA acknowledged that the complainants were willing to disclose their account details, so Betfair could explain how their playing or betting patterns had breached the promotions terms and conditions.
"We noted Betfair said they could not disclose customer activities. In the absence of any evidence that the complainants, or any other players, had their winnings and bonuses legitimately removed, or had been instructed to credit their account with good reason, we considered that the promotion had not been administered fairly. We concluded that the promotion breached the Code," the ASA report notes, quoting CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 8.2 (Sales promotions), 8.14 and 8.15.1 (Administration) and 8.17.1 (Significant conditions for promotions).
The adjudicators ruled that the material must not again appear in its current form.
In the case of Cassava Enterprises aka 888.com, a TV advertisement stated "GBP 8,888,888 could be yours, only at 888.com. Get eight spins absolutely free. No deposit. No charge". On-screen text stated "T&C apply. No deposit required. Registrants post 12/07 only".
The complaint in this case was lodged by a viewer who had achieved a small win on free spins, and challenged whether the ad was misleading, because it did not make clear that consumers were required to wager a specified amount of money in order to redeem any winnings.
Cassava said the ad offered new customers eight free spins to participate in the GBP 8,888,888 jackpot promotion and no other games were mentioned. They said no deposit or any other type of wager was required for new registering participants to participate in the GBP 8 million jackpot, and if they obtained the correct combination they would win the jackpot prize without any requirement to make a deposit or gamble specific amounts.
"The overall promotion included a number of other prizes in addition to the GBP 8,888,888 jackpot and it was possible to win smaller prizes up to GBP50 with the free spins but, in those cases, there were certain additional conditions that had to be met before those prizes could be cashed," Cassava explained.
"However it was clear from the ad that this was referring to the free spins for the jackpot prize only and not to the smaller prizes. The ad made clear that the offer was for new customers only and on-screen text stated that terms and conditions applied."
Cassava said that the terms and conditions on its website differentiated between the GBP 8,888,888 jackpot prize and the other smaller prizes and stated that the non-jackpot bonus prizes and any accumulated winnings could only be cashed after an entrant had made the required minimum deposit into their account, and wagered an amount totalling 40 times the amount of the Bonus Prize. The non-jackpot bonus prizes were not promoted in the ad, which only promoted the GBP 8,888,888 jackpot, but all terms and conditions were on its website.
The ASA found that the advertisement claimed new customers were not required to make a deposit or pay any wagering charges to use the eight free spins, but it understood that those conditions only applied if they won the GBP 8,888,888 jackpot prize or lost altogether.
The adjudicator pointed out: "We understood that other non-jackpot bonus prizes were offered in the same game using the advertised spins, and in order to claim those prizes, significant wagering conditions applied and participants would have to make a deposit.
"We noted the ad only referred to the jackpot prize, but nonetheless considered that it was unclear that the' free' spins just applied to the jackpot prize itself, and any non-jackpot prize wins in the same game using the free spins required a deposit and wagering charges.
"We considered that viewers would expect that, because other prizes were available in the jackpot game, all wins using the 'free' spins would have the same terms and conditions.
"We noted Cassava's argument that on-screen text referred to terms and conditions, but we considered that that qualification was not adequate to warn viewers that other wins in the same game using the advertised spins would not be 'free'.
"Because the ad did not make clear that the spins were only free in limited circumstances, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
"The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising), 3.10 (Qualifications) and 3.25 (Free claims), and must not be broadcast again in its current form.
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