Betfair Ad Banned for Featuring Young Poker Professional

16th September 2009 7:49 am GMT

The UK Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint against an email advertisement by Betfair for its poker site that was shown to be irresponsible for encouraging underage gambling and featuring a 20-year old poker professional, Annette Obrestad, which breached the gambling provisions of the CAP Code.

The email ad showed a photograph of a young woman, with text stating: "Online experience is measured in games, not years. Join the new breed. Annette Obrestad - "Annette_15".

One complainant objected that the ad was irresponsible because it might encourage children and young people to gamble, while the ASA challenged whether the ad breached the gambling provisions of the Code because Ms Obrestad was only 20 years old.

In its defence, Betfair said it did not believe its ad would encourage underage gambling as the email was distributed only to customers who had registered with Lucky Lotto over the age of 18 years old. The company said that to register at Lucky Lotto, players had to give their date of birth and emails were only to be distributed to those that had confirmed they were above 18 years old.

Betfair pointed out that the complainant did not imply he/she was under 18 or that the email had been seen by an under 18 year-old. The company said that under its licensing obligations, it had a team of staff dedicated to verifying the age and identity of customers, using a variety of methods to prevent under 18s from using their products. Betfair also said that it supported the use of parental control filtering software which could be installed and set up to prevent access by children.

Betfair stated that Ms Obrestad was featured in the ad not because of her age but because of her standing as a poker professional and champion who had had a profound effect no the game. In 2007 Ms Obrestad won the inaugural World Series of Poker Europe main event, a day before turning 19 years old.

The company said that Ms Obrestad, at 20 years old, was an adult and outside the definition of a child or a young person under the Code and the Gambling Act, and that her ability to derive earnings from sponsorship deals would be restricted if she was unable to appear in marketing materials.

In its assessment, the ASA accepted that the ad had not been deliberately targeted at young people in its distribution, but considered that Ms Obrestad's online screen-name "Annette_15" together with the text in the ad implied she was even younger than she was at 15 years of age.

The ASA concluded therefore that the ad was likely to have particular appeal to children and young people, and that by representing a successful young poker player, it could encourage young people to gamble, thereby breaching CAP Code clauses 57.2 and 57.4l (Gambling).

The ASA also noted that as a poker professional player, Ms Obrestad played a significant role in gambling in the ad, breaching the provisions of the Code, which states that no-one under 25 years old should be featured gambling or playing a significant role in a marketing communication. On this point the ad breached CAP Code clause 57.2 and 57.4n (Gambling).

Betfair has been told that the ad must not appear again in its current form, and that going forward no-one who was, or seemed to be under 25 years old, should appear gambling or playing a significant role in their ads. Betfair confirmed that it will not be using Ms Obrestad again in marketing material directed at UK customers.

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