Online casino and betting operators rapped for affiliate’s ‘rags to riches’ advertorial

  • Online articles pitched gambling as a way to escape debt
  • ‘Irresponsible’ clickbait piece used to advertise top brands

Four of the leading betting operators have come under fire from the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority over an “irresponsible” and misleading editorial-style advert that suggested gambling could reduce debt and clear medical bills, and encourages players in hardship to gamble.

The ASA has found against several online casino and betting operators for a misleading 'rags to riches' advert.
The ASA has found against several online casino and betting operators for a misleading ‘rags to riches’ advert.

Companies warned by the ASA so far are 888.com, SkyVegas, Casumo and Ladbrokes. Each has stated that the adverts were not commissioned by them and came from an affiliate.

In fact, earlier this month Sky Betting and Gaming, which operates the SkyVegas brand, announced it would be shutting down its affiliate programme, entirely because it did not feel it could manage them effectively to stay within rules.

Even though the advert came from an affiliate, the ASA deems that the casino or betting operator it is linked with is responsible.

Clickbait piece promised financial hardship solutions

The article appeared earlier this year on a number of sites, and which would link to one of the operators mentioned.

It takes the form of an editorial, sometimes under the title “On Their Wedding Night He Delivered A Secret She Wasn’t Ready For. The Result Will Have You In Tears”, according to the ASA report.

The piece outlines how a young man, struggling with debt and the cost of his wife’s medical treatment, clicked an ad for an online casino and took part in a free promotion.

According to the story, he won £700,000 ($925,000). The article was a template, with the promotion and casino name inserted in the right places.

Though the betting companies themselves have taken the rap for the offending content, none of those targeted by the complaints knew the content even existed.

The advertising content which attracted complaints to the ASA was reused by the unnamed affiliate source, and reproduced on a number of domains presumed to be owned by the affiliate.

Swift response from gambling companies

In response to the series of complaints, SkyVegas, 888.com, Ladbrokes and Casumo have all confirmed that the advertorial relating to their company has been removed by the affiliate, and that all ties with that contact have been severed. The ASA has ruled to uphold the complaints, and all affected companies have been ordered to ensure that affiliate ads bear clear messages that the content is an advertising piece.

Affiliates actively promote various online betting, casino and other sites through blogs, web content, social media and other marketing methods.

Most affiliate programs offer rewards for the consumer, such as a discount on items when a referred party clicks through on their link. The affiliate, then, depending on the contract, takes a one-off payment, or a cut of that newly signed-up player’s losses over their lifetime’s play.

However, the ASA ruling highlights a danger for reputable companies who use affiliates in marketing: it is not always so easy to control the content being put out with your name in it.

888.com reports it has ended its relationship with the affiliated company, while Sky Betting and Gaming has thrown in the towel on the whole concept altogether. That Sky has its own media outlets to help promote its brands, surely helps, however.

More focus on regulation following ruling

The news that ‘fake news’ has been used to promote casinos and online betting will once again throw a negative light on a sector rocked by 888’s recent punishment by the UK Gambling Commission and stories about unscrupulous affiliates in the UK national media.

The companies themselves, however, have appeared to try to nip this one in the bud as soon as possible, severing ties with the suspect affiliates and stressing that they breach their terms and conditions.

But the ruling will throw more scrutiny on how the industry manages its affiliates.

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