An email promotion for the online betting website www.casinoclassic.co.uk was headed "Play Casino with a £500 FREE Casino Bonus £500 FREE No Deposit Required". Text in the body of the ad stated "We are offering you £500 - absolutely FREE! Play any game with £500 totally free and whatever you win in your first 60 minutes is yours to keep! No risk and no tricks. Click Here to Claim Now! [link]". Small print at the bottom of the ad stated "For new players only Terms & conditions may apply".
The complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading because they were required to place a deposit after registration in order to receive the offer reward which was less than £500 in value.
Apollo Entertainment Ltd t/a Casino Classic, stated that the ad was sent out by a third-party affiliate who had failed to include the terms and conditions of the offer in the ad.
Casino Classic believed that the statement "no risk" in the ad was accurate in that the player would not be required to make a cash deposit in order to receive the £500 worth of free casino credit as advertised.
However, Casino Classic acknowledged that the following terms and conditions should have been included in the ad: the player would need to place 20 or more bets and win £20 over the original £500 in order to collect any winnings; if the player found that they were losing free casino credit, they would be able to click on the purple "Losing? Try again" button to reset the clock and credit balance; the player would be required to deposit a minimum of £20 into their casino account in order to claim the winnings and the maximum win on the Free Play was £100.
They explained that upon completion of the free credit, the player would have the option to make an actual cash deposit if they wished to claim any winnings resulting from betting with the £500 free credit. The maximum winnings that the player could claim were capped at £100.
Casino Classic pointed out that the terms and conditions of this offer were available at all times on their website, but stated that terms and conditions of all promotions and offers were included in their advertising as standard protocol. Casino Classic reiterated that it was an oversight on the part of the third-party affiliate that the terms were omitted in this instance and stated that the ad was immediately withdrawn.
The ASA noted Casino Classic's comments that the third-party affiliate had failed to include the offer terms and conditions in the ad, but we were minded that the primary responsibility for observing the Code remained with Casino Classic.
We understood that new players would receive "free" casino credit with a value of £500, or £500 worth of "free play" as referred to the advertiser's full terms and conditions, after they had downloaded the Casino Classic software and registered for an account. We understood that the player would then have 60 minutes for the "free play" and in order to claim winnings made during the "free play", the player would be required to place a minimum of 20 bets and have won at least £20 within the 60 minutes. If the player was losing the "free" credit during the "free play", they would be able to restart the timer which reset the 60 minutes period and the credit balance. We also noted an additional requirement that the player must deposit £20 into their account after having met the minimum requirements of placing 20 bets and having made winnings of £20 during the "free play", in order to withdraw the winnings which were limited to £100.
However, we considered that the wording in the ad "we are offering you £500 - absolutely free", "whatever you win in your first 60 minutes is yours to keep" and "no risk and no tricks" were likely to imply that players would receive credits that were worth £500 in value and would be able to claim any winnings made during the 60 minutes without significant restrictions, such as the requirements to place a certain number of bets and gain a certain amount of winnings, and the limitation that the amount of winnings that could be withdrawn would be capped.
We also considered that the wording "no deposit required" was likely to give the impression that players were not required to place a deposit at any stage of the process as one of the stipulations of the offer. We therefore considered that the limitations and the requirements of the offer were contrary to consumers' likely interpretation of how the offer operated based on the information presented in the ad. We further considered that these limitations were significant conditions that were likely to influence consumers' understanding of the offer and their decision whether or not to take up the offer and therefore should have been specified in the ad.
Although small print at the bottom of the ad stated "Terms & conditions may apply", we noted that the ad did not include any applicable terms of the offer or include a link that directed consumers to an easily accessible source where such terms were detailed. We also noted that the link "Click here to claim now" in the ad directed consumers to a landing page, which did not include any of the offer terms and conditions, and therefore it was possible that consumers would be able to sign up to the offer without being aware of such terms.
On the basis that the offer was described in the ad in a manner that was contrary to the actual limitations imposed and that the ad omitted significant conditions of the offer that were likely to have influenced consumers' understanding about the offer, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading Advertising), 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), 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification), 3.3 3.3 Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Free) and 8.17 8.17 All marketing communications or other material referring to promotions must communicate all applicable significant conditions or information where the omission of such conditions or information is likely to mislead. Significant conditions or information may, depending on the circumstances, include: (Significant Conditions for Promotions).
The ad must not appear in its current form again. We told Casino Classic to ensure that future ads for the £500 "free play" promotion did not give the impression that consumers would receive the "free" credit and could claim any winnings made without significant limitations. We also told Casino Classic to ensure that future ads made clear significant conditions of the offer, such as the requirements to place a certain number of bets, to make a certain amount of winnings and to make a deposit in order to claim the winnings which were limited.