A TV ad for Sky Vegas, an online casino website, showed a close up of a man wearing sunglasses. Bright colourful images were shown in the reflection of the glasses. The voice-over stated, "This is Michael. This morning he was doing his recycling, but right now he's in Sky Vegas. And here, he's the roulette rock star riding an electric riff of red and black. 'Cause Michael just registered and right now he's rocking his £10. Why aren't you in Sky Vegas?”
A viewer challenged whether the ad glamorised gambling by suggesting that it could enhance the personal qualities of those gambling.
Bonne Terre Ltd t/a Sky Vegas said the brief and the intention of the ad was to illustrate that those who played games on Sky Vegas had fun, and to invite viewers to consider joining the site.
Sky Vegas said that, during the pre-clearance process, Clearcast had raised concerns about the term “roulette rock star” because they considered it could suggest that gambling enhanced personal qualities. As a result, Sky Vegas gave more prominence to the visual cues in the ad, such as the sunglasses and guitars, which accompanied the term “rock star”.
Sky Vegas said they took a decision to not depict ‘Michael’ as a rock star in the ad after placing a bet because there was no reference or inference that he was, indeed, a musician whose abilities were enhanced and became a better musician or “rock star” because of his gambling. Instead, they believed the phrase “roulette rock star” was part of the alliteration “roulette rock star riding a riff of red and black …” which tied into the imagery of a roulette wheel that was embedded in the body of the guitar. They said that ‘Michael’ remained the same person with the same everyday qualities and there was no reference or visual to his peers or others viewing him differently; he only felt like a “rock star” because of the excitement of playing at Sky Vegas.
Sky Vegas said that whilst the intent of the ad was to show that Michael was having a good time whilst playing on Sky Vegas, as was demonstrated by his change in facial expression. They felt strongly that it remained relatively muted enjoyment in comparison to everyday chores. They believed the ad showed excitement and joy by referencing rock-themed imagery and language.
Clearcast said the ad featured only a close-up of Michael’s face; nobody else was shown. Michael was not shown trying to gain control or superiority over anyone and neither was anyone shown to provide him with recognition or admiration. They said the ad was highly stylised and featured well-known images connected with gambling and rock music, which suggested the world of Sky Vegas as reflected in Michael’s sunglasses was a fantasy one and not one to be taken seriously.
Clearcast said the ad provided a brief moment of relaxation and fun for Michael, rather than genuinely enhancing personal qualities such as recognition or admiration in real life. They did not consider the ad implied that other people should admire the Michael playing on Sky Vegas more than they would admire the Michael who did the recycling – it simply showed that Michael enjoyed a period of entertainment on Sky Vegas when he had a chance.
Clearcast said the end line, “Why aren’t you in Sky Vegas?” made no suggestion that the viewer would experience enhanced personal qualities through gambling. Rather it suggested viewers looking to experience internet gaming should consider Sky Vegas.
The ASA noted that at the start of the ad, Michael was introduced and shown with a neutral expression while the voice-over explained that he had completed the everyday chore of putting out his recycling. When the voice-over explained that Michael was gambling online with Sky Vegas, we noted his expression changed into a satisfied smile which Sky Vegas attributed to Michael’s enjoyment at playing online. However, we noted the smile continued when he was described as “the roulette rock star riding an electric rift of red and black” now that he was playing at Sky Vegas.
In his sunglasses, the ad showed a reflection of a guitar which then merged into a roulette wheel, which we considered reinforced the voice-over that Michael had become rock star like since he began playing roulette online at Sky Vegas. Additionally, we noted that he was described as “rocking” his bet whilst playing online roulette. We considered viewers were likely to interpret all of those references to mean that the Michael who was playing roulette was not the same version of Michael who had been introduced at the start of the ad. Rather, because he was now gambling online, he had become a version of Michael who now exuded the confidence, personality and qualities of a rock star and improved his self-image.
Although no physical transformation was depicted, we considered the ad implied a distinct change in Michael because he was playing roulette on Sky Vegas – taking the character from “everyday Michael” to “rock star Michael”. Therefore, we concluded that the ad suggested that gambling would enhance the personal qualities of those gambling.
The ad breached BCAP Code rule
suggest that gambling can enhance personal qualities; for example, that it can improve self-image or self-esteem, or is a way to gain control, superiority, recognition or admiration
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told Bonne Terre Ltd to take care to ensure its advertising did not suggest that gambling could enhance personal qualities.