Presenting the role of luck when advertising gambling

Presenting the role of luck when advertising gambling

Woman holidng a four leaf clover

by Melanie Ellis, Senior Associate

by Melanie Ellis, Senior Associate

Various provisions of the CAP and BCAP codes affect how gambling operators can portray the role of luck in gambling. For example, under CAP code 16.3.15 you must not “exploit cultural beliefs or traditions about gambling or luck” for example by referring to the “luck of the Irish”. Under CAP code 16.3.2 you must not “exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of children, young persons or other vulnerable persons” by, for example, incorrectly suggesting that someone can influence their luck in a certain way.

Last week, the ASA ruled on three different television adverts and one Facebook advert for Unibet, which used the phrase “luck is no coincidence” as a strapline. These adverts were challenged, not in relation to the gambling-specific elements of the CAP or BCAP code (such as those referred to above), but on the basis that the use of this phrase was misleading and/or irresponsible.

The Unibet adverts involved men making predictions for sporting events based on factors which they thought could influence the outcome, such as the height of players and the weather. The ASA considered whether the phrase “luck is no coincidence” implied that gambling outcomes could be predicted and therefore the adverts were misleading and irresponsible. Ultimately, the ASA did not consider that the adverts went so far as to imply that having specialist knowledge of a sport would guarantee a win, rather that customers would understand that better informed bets might lead to a more favourable outcome. The ASA also did not feel that the message of the adverts, that research and knowledge could result in better gambling outcomes, was irresponsible. The complaints were not, therefore, upheld.

By way of contrast, in 2014 the ASA upheld complaints about two Ladbrokes poster adverts which used the phrases “when you win it’s skill – when you lose it’s bad luck” and “once is luck – twice is talent”, considering that they condoned an irresponsible attitude towards gambling. This seems to be a different approach, but whether complaints are upheld by the ASA is not a matter of luck! The contrasting approach is best explained by the different context of the adverts. The Unibet adverts were televised and featured a group of men having a sensible discussion about different approaches to gambling, however the Ladbrokes adverts (as they were just posters) were not able to show any such context to the statement about luck.

The take-away is that when referring to “luck” in gambling adverts it is important to put whatever statements are made into a context which explains, in a realistic and responsible way, the influence of luck, skill and knowledge on gambling outcomes.