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ASA Condemns Festival Free Bets’ Advertisement Featuring Under-25 Personality

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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has reproached Festival Free Bets for an advertisement seen on X (formerly Twitter) on 12 March 2024, featuring Astrid Wett, who was 23 at the time, at Cheltenham racecourse. This ad raised concerns over adherence to UK gambling advertising regulations due to Wett’s age.

Unanswered concerns from Festival Free Bets:

Despite the ASA’s inquiries, Festival Free Bets failed to respond, prompting the ASA to express dismay at their lack of communication and apparent disregard for the Code. Consequently, the ASA concluded that Festival Free Bets violated Cap Code rule 1.7, which stipulates that any unreasonable delay in responding to ASA inquiries constitutes a breach.

Wett admitted her lack of awareness regarding age restrictions outlined in the CAP Code for gambling ads and expressed regret for her inadvertent breach. She clarified that she assumed being over 18 was sufficient for such promotions and affirmed her commitment to complying with all relevant guidelines.

Reiterating the CAP Code’s provisions, the ASA emphasized that individuals under 25 should not play a significant role in gambling advertisements, except in cases where bets are placed directly through a transactional facility. However, the ASA found that Wett’s prominent presence in the ad qualified as a significant role, leading to a breach of CAP Code rule 1.3 on social responsibility.

The ASA ruled that the ad must not reappear in its current form and instructed Festival Free Bets to ensure that individuals under 25 do not feature prominently in their marketing communications for gambling services. The matter was forwarded to CAP’s Compliance team for further action.

Recent scrutiny on gambling ads:

This rebuke adds to a series of recent criticisms directed at gambling advertisements. In a separate incident, LeoVegas was instructed to withdraw a radio ad for its BetUK sportsbook featuring Adebayo Akinfenwa, a retired footballer, deemed appealing to children. The ASA has consistently upheld the responsibility of advertisers to promote responsible gambling practices, as demonstrated by its investigation into a Mecca Bingo ad suggesting gambling enhances self-esteem.

With the upcoming Euro 2024 tournament, the ASA has reiterated advertising guidelines for operators, emphasizing the prohibition of individuals under 25 in ads and the avoidance of content appealing to minors. These efforts underscore the ASA’s commitment to ensuring ethical advertising practices within the gambling industry.

While the ASA’s focus remains on upholding regulatory compliance, the broader implications of such measures extend to safeguarding vulnerable individuals from potentially harmful advertising practices. By enforcing strict guidelines and holding advertisers accountable, regulatory bodies like the ASA play a pivotal role in promoting responsible gambling and protecting consumers from undue influence.

Engagement with stakeholders:

In light of recent infractions, there is a growing imperative for increased dialogue and collaboration between regulatory authorities, industry stakeholders, and advertising agencies. Through proactive engagement and ongoing education initiatives, stakeholders can foster a culture of accountability and ethical advertising practices, ensuring the integrity of the gambling industry while safeguarding public welfare.

As the landscape of gambling advertising continues to evolve, there is a pressing need for continual review and adaptation of regulatory frameworks to address emerging challenges effectively. By staying abreast of industry trends and consumer behaviors, regulatory bodies can refine existing guidelines to uphold the highest standards of social responsibility and consumer protection in gambling advertising.

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