ASA upholds complaint against Ladbrokes for ‘socially irresponsible’ depiction of betting

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against Ladbrokes, citing that a television advertisement by the bookmaker depicted gambling in a ‘socially irresponsible’ manner.

Three scenes appeared in the advert in question, each depicting sports betting. In the first scene, a man is seen glancing at his phone while a voiceover reads: “I’m a nodder: up to the football, down to the app like a dog on a dashboard.”

The second scene features a man who the ASA described as looking ‘visibly frustrated’ whilst making kicking motions at a train station and appearing to use the Ladbrokes app, attracting the attention of another waiting passenger, while a voiceover stated: “When I bet I’m a frustrated manager. I kick every ball.”

Finally, the last scene showed three men watching a VAR decision during a football game whilst appearing to be ‘extremely tense and nervous’, having only just celebrated the now contentious goal.

The ad concluded with a shot of the Ladbrokes logo along with a verbal statement: “However you like to play, we’ve got your bet. Boost your acca odds at Ladbrokes.com.”

Referring the advert to the ASA, the complainant argued that the ad in question depicted people who were addicted to gambling, and challenged whether this depiction could be considered socially irresponsible.

Although acknowledging both Ladbrokes and Clearcast‘s defence regarding the ad – with both organisations stating that the TV spot did not depict people exhibiting gambling addiction but instead enjoying and reacting to a live football match – the ASA upheld the complainants argument.

The primary issue relates to the CAP Code, which explicitly forbids the depiction of behaviour associated with gambling addiction.

While both Comcast and Ladbrokes argued that the behaviour shown in the advert did not violate this rule, the ASA deemed that the first scene showed a man who was ‘engrossed with betting’, whilst the second scene showed an individual who was ‘detached from his surroundings and who had a preoccupation with gambling’.

Finally, the third scene of the advertisement showed three men watching and celebrating a football game, then nervously watching a VAR decision, whilst a voiceover said: “If I’ve got an acca coming in, I find myself getting very excited.”

The ASA ruled that this did not showcase three men enjoying and reacting to the result of a football match, but rather the fact that they were close to winning an accumulator.

“Because the ad appeared to depict a major mood swing and directly related it to the tension of potentially winning an accumulator, rather than just watching sports, we considered that the ad depicted problem gambling behaviour,” the Authority explained. 

“For those reasons, we concluded that the ad depicted gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible, and therefore breached the Code.”

As a result of the ruling, the ASA has informed the Entain-owned operator that it must ‘ensure future ads did not depict gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible, such as showing detachment from surroundings, mood swings and preoccupation with betting.

Although upholding this complaint against Ladbrokes, the ASA cleared the bookmaker last month after a complainant argued that an advertisement for a slot game themed around the 1980s film The Goonies could constitute promoting gambling to under-18s.

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