Casino Advertising Scandals

Angie Harper - EditorAngie Harper - 04 May 2020 in Features

Casino Advertising Scandals

Casinos are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to advertising. There are very strict regulations surrounding advertising when it comes to gambling, and while these vary slightly from place to place, they are almost universal in being very well regulated.

That’s why there are plenty of advertising scandals to dig up when it comes to casinos. We investigate a few recent examples of how things can go wrong in casino advertising.

Not the Children! Monopoly Themed Game in Hot Water with the ASA

You know what’s a huge no-no when it comes to any sort of gambling advertising? Having anything to do with something that’s appealing to children. Unfortunately, that’s just what happened to Gibraltar-based Entertaining Play, when they placed an advertisement on the Mirror Online’s website in 2019.

According to The Guardian, the advertisement featured the well-known Mr. Monopoly, otherwise known as Rich Uncle Pennybags. While we all know that adults like to play Monopoly at times (and especially accuse each other of cheating after a glass of wine or two), the board game itself is recommended for players aged 8 years and up. This definitely sits within the children category.

While the Mirror as well as Entertaining Play argued that the ad wouldn’t appeal to children, the very idea of them arguing that a well-known children’s board game figure wouldn’t be appealing to children is a little bit, well, silly.

Mr Green Marketing Via Direct Mail and Email to Self-Excluded Players

Mr Green, a Swedish casino brand owned by William Hill, was written up by the Swedish Consumer Agency in 2019 for issuing direct mail and email to self-excluded players. These are players who previously played at the casino, but wanted to stop themselves from gambling and so opted into the self-exclusion program.

Unfortunately, the mailings appeared to be as a result of database errors at the company. These had been times when customers hadn’t registered their personal identification numbers with the operator. However, despite it being a programming mistake, this doesn’t mean that companies are able to get away with this type of behavior - which is why systems should be tested thoroughly before rollout.

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Google Ads Shows Gambling Sites to Addicts Seeking Help

Recently, Google has started to relax their policies regarding the allowing of online gambling-based advertisements in Google Ads in certain countries and jurisdictions. This is because these are now fully legal establishments in many places. Up until recently, advertising gambling of any kind has not been allowed on Google Ads.

However, the problem with the relaxation of these policies is that the algorithm had not yet been tweaked to separate people searching for help with gambling addiction from those searching for gambling more generally.

As the Independent reported in January 2020, when searching for the UK Gamstop, a program dedicated to helping patrons self-exclude themselves from online casinos, Google Ads results would show gambling-related websites as part of their ads served at the top of the search results page. This was even after the newspaper informed the tech giant of these inappropriate ads.

The article goes on to say that “the top result from a Google search for “Gamstop UK” was an advert stating: “Not on Gamstop Popular sites – Get 300 per cent Bonus.”

While the issue seems to have been fixed, it’s not a good look for Google, and a reminder they need to thoroughly test gambling-related rollbacks before releasing them on the general public.

Crown Casinos in Australia Try to Pull a Reputation-Saving Stunt

Back in 2019, Crown Casinos in Australia were forced to try and scramble to save their reputation after a damning investigative journalism campaign ‘The Crown Unmasked’ spearheaded by the Sydney Morning Herald, and summarized in the high rating TV programme, 60 Minutes, uncovered a salacious series of scandals.

This included reports of unlawful junkets from China, organized crime figures’ involvement with the casino giant, crimes committed by Chinese staff, and money laundering allegations. All this eventuated in an investigation into Crown itself - but not before the board of directors took out full-page advertisements in some of the biggest newspapers around the country, going on to address the allegations in detail.

Who was surprised by the allegations against Crown? Well, nobody who’s been in the casino game for a while, that’s for sure! Who was won over by the full-page advertisements? Probably nobody, too.

Ladbrokes Hit with a Record Fine for Marketing Infractions in NSW

What is it about those Aussies and not following the rules? This one is the story of Ladbrokes Australia’s misstep when it came to advertising for their sports betting arm on local free to air television, Facebook, and Instagram.

Liquor and Gaming NSW issued Ladbrokes (and subsidiary, Neds) with a fine of $207,500AUD for a total of 4 Ladbrokes ads and 2 Neds advertisements.

So What Was the Problem with the Ads Placed?

This was, as quoted, that they “offered bonus bets for a smaller deposit, such as a deal to “Deposit $50, get $250 in bonus bets.” The problem with this is that it was only for new players. In NSW it is illegal to entice new players to gamble - ads must only be appropriate for those who already own accounts under the gambling houses.

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