On 25 September 2019, the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) investigated two issues in relation to two sponsored online search engine adverts paid for by online casino 32Red Ltd, both of which were upheld. The ASA ruled that the sponsored adverts were in breach of the UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising ("CAP Code") because the context in which they appeared was likely to appeal to children and because 32Red had directed the adverts to those under the age of 18.
The two adverts appeared alongside search results when the search term “Jack and the Beanstalk” was entered.
The first ad stated “Jack and the Beanstalk 32Red.com Get a 150% Bonus up to £150. First Deposit Bonus & My Red Rewards Daily Offers. Join 32Red Casino today & get £15 free for every £10 deposited up to £150. 24/7 Support.”
The second ad stated “Jack and the Beanstalk Get a 150% Bonus up to £150 32Red.com 32Red.com – First Deposit Bonus & My Red Rewards Daily Offers. Join 32Red Casino today & get £15 free for every £10 deposited up to £150. 24/7 Support. Award Winning Casino. Fast Payments. Types: 550+ Online Slots, Progressive Jackpots, Table Games, Live Casino.”
The ASA’s investigation looked at two issues. Firstly, were the adverts likely to appeal to children? Secondly, were the adverts directed at those aged below 18 years of age?
Response from 32Red
32Red confirmed that the two adverts were part of a wider marketing strategy which targeted users that searched terms that corresponded to the names of various 32Red games. One such term was “Jack and the Beanstalk” which corresponds to a “high-risk” game of the same name that could be played on 32Red’s website.
The company said that because “Jack and the Beanstalk” was a “high-risk” game, only those that have been age verified would be able to actually play the game but admitted that the adverts had appeared in error. As soon as this was brought to 32Red’s attention the adverts were removed and steps were taken to ensure that high-risk games did not appear in keyword lists for sponsored adverts again.
The ASA stated that the first page of search results for the term “Jack and the Beanstalk” all related to the classic children’s fairy tale. Whilst they acknowledged that the adverts only showed plain font text (as opposed to any imagery/graphics that would appeal to children), they ultimately decided that because it was a children’s fairy tale, having the advert contain the words “Jack and the Beanstalk” was likely to be of particular appeal to children. The ASA continued by saying that there was a high likelihood that the search term would be entered by children or adults in the presence of children and therefore viewed by children. Therefore, they ruled that the adverts appealed to children and were directed at those under the age of 18 years old in breach of CAP Code rules 16.1, 16.3.12 and 16.3.13, which state “Marketing communications for gambling must be socially responsible, with particular regard to the need to protect children, young persons and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited” and “Marketing communications must not: be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture or be directed at those aged below 18 years through the selection of media or context in which they appear.”
The full ruling can be found at this link: https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/32red-ltd-A19-1019068.html
Article co-authored by Rahul Gandhi.