On 10 July 2019, the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) published rulings in favour of PPB Counterparty Services Ltd t/a Betfair (“Betfair”) and Bonne Terre Ltd t/a Sky Bet (“Sky Bet”), finding that neither operator had breached the CAP Code and BCAP Code respectively. The ruling in respect of Sky Bet reversed a previous decision by the regulator (as reported in Law-Now here) that a TV advert was socially irresponsible on the basis it implied those with a good knowledge of sports would be more likely to experience gambling success.
The ad in question promoted Sky Bet’s “Request a Bet” service and featured football presenter Jeff Stelling saying: “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: let’s 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.” Behind Stelling was a large screen, showing various odds and statistics as well as a graphic of brain waves emanating from his head.
Two complainants challenged the ad for being irresponsible as they felt it implied that those with a good knowledge of sports would be more likely to experience gambling success. The ASA had previously upheld the complaints, finding that the ad was in breach of BCAP Code rules 17.3 and 17.3.1. The regulator held that the ad gave an erroneous impression of the extent to which knowledge of sport can influence sports betting success and exaggerated the level of control consumers could exert over their betting.
Many in the industry criticised the decision, with Sky Bet stating that it created a “high level of uncertainty” for the market. In its response, Sky Bet had argued that the use of “spark your sports brain” and “how big is your sports noggin” referred to consumers building bets using their knowledge of the relevant sport through the “Request a Bet” feature and that the ad did not claim that knowledge increases chances of success and in fact stated that “in sport anything does happen”. The operator also claimed that knowledge of the relevant sport was a key element of sports betting and it was accepted that such knowledge would increase a consumer’s chances of success, with many consumers researching sports in order to gain an “edge” over a bookmaker.
On review, the ASA found that consumers would understand that references to “sports brain” and “sport noggin” were referring to the potential to use sports knowledge to build a complex bet. The ASA did not think that the ad irresponsibly exaggerated the role sports knowledge played in successful betting and acknowledged the uncertainty involved with the phrase “in sport anything does happen”.
The ASA’s ruling can be found here.
The Betfair advert in question was displayed on the promotions section of Betfair’s website, and advertised its “Cash Out” feature. Text stated “CASH OUT KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL CASH OUT WHEN THE MOMENT IS RIGHT AND TAKE YOUR PROFITS … HOW IT WORKS 1. Add selections to your betslip as normal. Bets eligible for Cash Out will have the ‘Cash Out’ icon appear next to them. 2. Place your bet where Cash Out is available. 3. To see all of your eligible Cash Out bets go the Cash Out page. 4. To Cash Out your bet simply press ‘Cash Out’. Should your Cash Out be successful, your returns will be paid instantly. 5. If you wish to Cash Out part of your bet, press the ‘Cash Out Part of Your Bet’ button, then use the slider to Cash Out as much or as little of your bet as you like, your returns will be paid instantly”. Further text at the bottom of the page stated “Cash Out is available on selected markets where the orange ‘Cash Out’ symbol is shown. Images are for illustration purposes only. Cash Out is not always guaranteed to be available”.
The ASA considered whether the ad was misleading as the complainant was unable to cash out under the stated terms.
Betfair explained that their “Cash Out” product was available on all betting markets which displayed the cash out icon and allowed customers to control their live bets by taking their winnings early or cutting their losses, either before or during the relevant sporting event. The feature could be suspended during a live event when there was a major incident, like a goal or a red card, so that odds could be updated and people prevented from betting on events which had just happened. During this suspension, customers could not cash out. Betfair explained that it has the ability to exclude customers from using the cash out feature in its entirety across all sports and betting markets, but cannot suspend or block it on an individual bet level or when certain thresholds are met. Betfair argued that the ad stated that cash out would not be available at all times and linked to pages containing information about how the feature worked, including why it may be suspended or unsuccessful.
The ASA found the ad was not in breach of rules 3.1 and 3.3 of the CAP Code for being misleading or rule 3.9 in regards to whether it stated significant limitations and qualifications. It felt that consumers would understand from the ad that the cash out feature was not always available and that they could find more information about the feature by following the links provided. The links provided explained why the cash out may be delayed, suspended or not successful and stated that a cash out was not guaranteed to be successful if the market was suspended or the odds moved before a request was processed.
The ASA’s ruling can be found here.