A promotion for Merkur Cashino on the back of a child’s bus ticket, seen on 28 May 2019, stated “£5 Free Plays on a machine of your choice with this ticket!”.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was directed at those below 18 years through the selection of media or context in which it appeared.
Cashino Gaming Ltd t/a Merkur Cashino said that they operated low stake gambling machines in an adult-only environment. The promotion highlighted the refurbishment of the Merkur Cashino venue in Cotterridge and was intended to target over 18-year olds in the area. The bus ticket ads ran from 6 May to 19 May 2019. They said the ad agency, TicketMedia, had confirmed to them that nationally on the bus routes on which they advertised, 23.1% of ticketed passengers were aged between 5 and 15 years. Merkur Cashino said that the ad was not likely to be of particular appeal to under 18s. The artwork did not contain anything that was likely to appeal to children or be associated with youth culture. They added a banner on the ad which referenced responsible gambling as well as including the “over 18s” symbol. National Express West Midlands, who operated the bus route, said that in a term-time week, approximately 45,000 passenger journeys were made on the 35 bus route. Typically around 27% of all journeys were undertaken by passengers on that route who actually bought a ticket and would potentially receive the ad. The majority of them were adults. The proportion of cash tickets being purchased by children on that route was 15% during term time and 12% during the holiday period. Consequently, during term time only just over 3% of all passenger journeys were made by children buying a cash paper ticket on the bus.
CAP Code rule 16.3.13 required that marketing communications for gambling must not be directed at those aged younger than 18 years through the selection of media or context in which they appeared. The ASA required marketers to demonstrate that gambling ads were not placed in media where the protected age category made up more than 25% of the audience.
The ad featured a “£5 free play” promotion at a casino and was seen on a child’s ticket on a bus route that served schools. We considered that because the ads appeared on the back of bus tickets they did not appear in media which was specifically directed at under 18s. It was therefore necessary to review whether the proportion of under 18s who made up the audience of the ad was more than 25%. We considered that in areas where there might be a concentration of people under 18 (for example on a bus route which served schools) the proportion of under 18s in the ad’s audience might be higher than 25%. However, on the particular bus route identified by the complainant, the highest percentage of child-fare paper tickets issued was 15% during term time. We understood that across the bus company’s network, only 3% of all passengers were issued child-fare paper tickets during term time. We therefore concluded that because the proportion of under 18s in the audience for the ad was under 25% of the total audience, the ad did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 16.1, 16.3, 16.3.13 (Gambling), but did not find it in breach.