Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
The website www.Karamba.com, seen on 3 May 2018, featured a web page relating to the online slot game Starburst™. Under the title “Tips and tricks on how to Win at Starburst™” text stated “So, how can you REALLY play this high payout slot to your advantage and maximize your wins time and time again? Can you influence your luck when playing? Read on to discover the top tips and tricks for winning at Starburst™ video slot …”. Under the title “The Starburst™ Strategy”, the web page stated that “the top 5 tips for winning” included “Wins at the minimum bet rate are much less frequent and pay out significantly smaller sums”, “Don’t panic! Tests have also proven that it is possible to change your luck if you find things aren’t going your way”, “Try changing the cycle of the game to get back on the winning track by toggling between the Spin and Max Bet buttons. The bet rate will stay the same, but you may trigger more bonus features and, most importantly, wins” and “Playing at off-peak times could earn you higher winnings! Research has shown that wins are highly affected by the number of people playing at a specific time. Beat the crowds and you could score yourself some extra cash!”. The text also included a link to a different web page titled “How to Choose a Winning Slot Machine” with further tips on increasing the chances of winning slot games.
The complainant challenged whether the ad:
1. misleadingly implied that particular strategies would increase the chances of winning; and
2. was socially irresponsible because it encouraged gambling behaviour that could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.
1. & 2. AG Communications Ltd t/a Karamba.com said the challenged web pages were uploaded to the Karamba website because of human error, and had not gone through their usual internal procedure for the approval of marketing materials to ensure that all content complied with the applicable regulations. They said they also maintained two processes in order to ensure their compliancy: ongoing monitoring to assure only approved material was used and implementing ongoing training regarding marketing guidelines for all relevant departments. They said in this circumstance neither the internal approval procedure nor the training had been followed by the personnel responsible for the claims in the ad. They also said the web pages in question attracted low levels of user traffic, which contributed to them slipping under the radar of the ongoing compliance monitoring. Karamba.com said they had withdrawn the challenged ads, commenced a full internal review in order to duly address the issue and reiterated their approval procedure to staff.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the “tips and tricks” claims for winning Starburst, including “Wins at the minimum bet rate are much less frequent … and smaller”, “it is possible to change your luck” and “Playing at off-peak times could earn you higher winnings!”, to mean that by using those strategies it would significantly improve their chances of winning, including after playing that game unsuccessfully.
We had not seen any evidence in support of the top tips claims. We therefore considered that those claims had not been substantiated and were misleading.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation).
The Code required that marketing communications for gambling were socially responsible and did not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that was irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.
We considered that the claims on the website which suggested that placing higher bets increased the chances of winning, that a consumer’s luck could change if they had not been winning, and that other strategies could improve the chances of winning, condoned and encouraged irresponsible gambling behaviour that could lead to financial, social or emotional harm. We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible and was in breach of the Code.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 16.1 16.1 Marketing communications for gambling must be socially responsible, with particular regard to the need to protect children, young persons and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited. 16.3.1 16.3.1 portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm and 16.3.2 16.3.2 exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of children, young persons or other vulnerable persons (Gambling).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Karamba.com to ensure their future marketing communications contained nothing that was likely to encourage irresponsible gambling behaviour that could lead to financial, social or emotional harm. Additionally, future marketing communications must not misleadingly imply that particular strategies improved a consumer’s chances of winning Starburst when that was not the case, and Karamaba.com must hold adequate substantiation in support of such claims.