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Targeted nature of gambling advert helps operator meet UK advertising rules

A gambling advert which was "likely to have particular appeal to children and young persons" has been held as compliant with UK advertising rules because of the targeted way in which it was distributed.18 May 2017

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said an email advert run by gambling operator Ladbrokes, which featured an image of comic book character Iron Man, had complied with UK advertising rules. The tight control Ladbrokes had imposed on who its ad might reach was a pivotal factor in the ASA's decision.

In deeming Ladbrokes' advert complaint the ASA upheld the gambling operator's appeal against an August 2016 ruling by the watchdog where it had upheld a complaint made about the advert.

Ladbrokes' advert contained a promotional offer for its online casino business and "featured an image of Iron Man with the text 'IRON MAN 3 … Enjoy this exclusive Ladbrokes welcome offer with Iron Man 3'", according to the ASA.

UK advertising rules require that gambling ads must not, among other things, "be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture".

The ASA said: "We understood that Iron Man was a popular character that would appeal to many adults but considered its comic book nature, and the availability of various related toys, meant it was likely to have particular appeal to children and young people. Nevertheless, we noted that the ad was sent by email only to registered customers and others who had been validated as being over 18 years of age."

"Unlike other media that was not directed at children or young persons but that they could nevertheless be exposed to, we considered that in this instance Ladbrokes had targeted the email to ensure it was extremely unlikely that anybody under 18 years of age would see the ad. Although the ad was likely to have particular appeal to children and young persons, we concluded that because the ad would not be seen by them, it was not irresponsible," it said.

Recently, the British gambling regulator fined BGO Entertainment Limited (BGO) £300,000 after deeming that adverts BGO was responsible for breached social responsibility obligations the company was subject to as a condition of its operating licence.