A television advertisement for PokerStars has been pulled off the air by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), a regulatory agency in the United Kingdom because it claims the ad depicts reckless and socially irresponsible behavior in gambling and encourages amateurs to win by bluffing recklessly.
In the advertisement, which hit TV screens in October 2017, a circle of people is sitting around a table playing poker when a voice-over says, “And, there you are, the very moment when bluffing is your only way to win. But, think, think of all those lies you managed to convince yourself with: think about this pull-up bar that’s still waiting for you to get back in shape; this desk that you were supposed to put up ‘next Sunday’ for the past three years.”
Apparently, the ASA believes the message is that if you can tell a lie in real life, you can lie and win when online gaming. In the TV spot, an average player is dealt one of the worst hands you can get, an 8-3 that is off-suit. The ad contends that the person has no choice but to bluff and is encouraged to do so. That all sounds rather comedic, but, unfortunately, the ASA did not think it was so funny.
Bluffing to Win
The agency said in a public statement that viewers were being led to believe that a person could score big wins by making bluffs that model his or her real-life experience with lying and that experience playing the actual game does not matter, as long as a person is capable of being deceptive. Because the amateur players were supposedly led to believe they could win by bluffing without possessing any actual gaming skill, the ASA expressed concern that it could result in harming these inexperienced players financially. Therefore, the ad was deemed reckless and removed from the air.
Pokerstars defended the ad by saying that it did not actually portray bets being placed or money exchanging hands. Company executives noted that bluffing is a regular part of playing poker, is expected, and, in and of itself, does not represent a reckless or inappropriate act. However, Pokerstars’ protest against the ban fell on deaf ears at the ASA.
Crackdown on Gaming in The United Kingdom
The watchdog agency’s move to ban this ad is happening while poker operators who do business online are targeting amateur players. Newbies are targeted more and more frequently because of a rise in the sheer number of amateur recreational players. The increase in interest has led the industry to aim promotions, rewards, and advertisements at these new entrants on the scene.
But, the decision by the agency should not surprise anybody. Advertisements for gambling have recently gone under a microscope in the United Kingdom. An alleged onslaught of deceptive promotions has led to an increase in consumer complaints. Recently, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), published new advertising standards for gambling because of the numerous complaints. The CAP is a sister agency of the ASA.
In December 2017, the online casino Fruity King’s tweet was banned because it was determined to be derogatory toward females. The tweet featured hosts from Loose Women, a popular TV talk show, in bathing suits, saying, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. #LooseWomen18.” In November 2017, the agency also banned a Health Lottery promotion that was determined to be exaggerating players’ potential winnings. With these and other recent ASA actions, it will surprise no one if the agency’s scrutiny continues and more fallout is seen in the U.K. e-gaming industry.
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