On 18 September 2019, the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) upheld a complaint against BetIndex Ltd (“BetIndex”) regarding a sponsored video available on a social video platform. The ASA ruled that the sponsored video was in breach of the UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising ("CAP Code") because it created the impression that the product was an investment opportunity, when in fact it was a gambling product, and didn’t make the associated financial risks clear.
The video, entitled “How to make money from football index”, featured two representatives of The Football Index – a UK-licensed gambling platform (also known as the ‘Football Stock Market’) – being interviewed about the platform. One representative said, “It’s basically the football stock market, where you buy and sell shares in footballers with real money and you can win daily pay-outs which we call dividends.” The other representative said, “With Football Index, it’s a long, ongoing bet, so you’ve got multiple opportunities to win, but also the ability to cash out at any time.”
The complainant believed the advert presented the product as an investment opportunity and that it suggested customers could make a reliable stream of income from it. The complainant argued that the advert did not make the financial risks of using the product clear and said that it was therefore irresponsible.
BetIndex responded arguing that by describing the product as a ‘football stock market’ customers would make the connection with a traditional stock market in which the value of shares can go up or down. BetIndex added that the graphic in the video showed the value of a player was subject to market fluctuations both up and down. Furthermore, they claimed to have taken suitable measures to highlight the games rules (rules that, as BetIndex argued, made it clear that there was potential to incur losses) and display the Gambling Commission and begambleaware.com logos.
The ASA upheld the complaint and stated that the advert breached rules 16.1, 16.3.1 and 16.3.2 of the CAP Code which respectively state that “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 that “marketing communications must not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm or exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of children, young persons or other vulnerable persons.”
The ASA acknowledged that the product operated in a similar way to a conventional stock market but were unconvinced that the minor references to game rules, graphics displaying downward fluctuations in a player’s value and the presence of the Gambling Commission and begambleaware.com loges were enough to override the impression that this product was presented as an investment opportunity.
The advert’s focus on the ability to generate profit from the product, comments in the video like “365 days a year, every day, we’re paying out on these portfolios” and the fact that the title of the video was “how to make money from the football index” gave the impression that this was an investment product as opposed to a gambling product. The financial risks associated with the product were not made clear and the ASA concluded that the advert was irresponsible. Consequently, the ASA ruled that the advert cannot appear in the form complained of again and told BetIndex to ensure that their future marketing communications did not encourage gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible and should be clear about any financial risks associated with the use of their products.
The full ruling can be found at this link: https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/betindex-ltd-A19-1023204.html
Article co-authored by Rahul Gandhi