On 11 March 2020, the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) concluded that two posts which appeared on the official Instagram account of Profit Accumulator Ltd (“Profit Accumulator”) were irresponsible. It was held that the hashtags and content within the Instagram posts suggested that matched betting could be a way to achieve financial security or alternative employment, and consequently, that the ads breached the UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising (“CAP Code”).
Profit Accumulator assists its members with taking part in matched betting, which is where users place multiple bets on all the potential outcomes of a bet, often using promotional free bets offered by bookmakers. Consequently, in general, members do not incur any losses.
Profit Accumulator therefore argued that its service was not in itself gambling, and the ASA accepted this. However, the ASA considered that the purpose of the service was to facilitate gambling, and therefore, the ASA made its assessment on that basis.
The first ad, posted on 22 March 2019, included an image with the superimposed text “COLOSSAL WIN 2,380.50” alongside “Absolutely amazing win from one of our members 12 minutes ago” and the hashtags: “#makemoney #makingmoney #income #makemoneyfromhome #extraincome #students #sahm #extramoney” (“Advert A”).
The second advert, posted on 11 April 2019, included a review that stated, “In 1 month I have gone from a person struggling to stay afloat who is worrying about their MOT, bills etc to completely flipping my financial position. Could not have got to this position without match betting and without the guidance of Profit Accumulator”. There were also hashtags included such as: “#workingfromhome #workingfromhomejobs #workingfromhome #earnmoney #earnmoneyonline” (“Advert B”).
The complainant alleged that the ads suggested that matched betting could be a way to achieve financial security and were therefore irresponsible.
Profit Accumulator argued that whilst the ads featured the hashtags “#makemoney”, “#makingmoney”, “#income” and “#workingfromhomejobs”, this was not irresponsible because matched betting did provide a way to make extra money. In addition, they did not consider that the hashtags suggested matched betting was an alternative to full-time employment.
The ASA’s ruling
In respect of Advert A, the ASA assessed that the hashtags were aimed at those more likely to be on a lower income with references to “#sahm” (stay at home mums) and “#students”. The ASA took into consideration the wider context of the ad and determined that the image of a large sum of money implied that Profit Accumulator’s service was a way to achieve financial security through gambling.
The ASA took into further consideration the exposure of the ads to those searching specific hashtags. For example, those searching for “#workingfromhome” may have been searching under similar terms for employment or working from home and would have been shown the ad.
There were also concerns that the content of Advert B, such as referencing the ability to pay bills, could be interpreted to suggest that the use of Profit Accumulator’s service could change the consumer’s financial position and be a solution to financial concerns. The ASA considered that the adverts and hashtags would place consumers in a position where they would be interacting with gambling services and therefore it was irresponsible of the company to suggest to consumers that their service might be an alternative to pay debts or employment itself.
Therefore, the ASA ruled that the ads breached CAP code rule 1.3, which specifies that marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
A link to the full decision can be found here.
Companies offering betting advice or linking to certain betting promotions should be aware that their ads will be assessed by the ASA on the basis that the services are connected to gambling. Therefore, when offering these services, it is important to bear in mind rules in the CAP Code specifically related to gambling.
Co-authored by Kiran Jassal.