OddsMonkey, www.oddsmonkey.com, a website for matched betting, seen on 21 September 2017, contained a page called "Ben's Matched Betting Diary". Text below the heading stated, "Welcome to my matched betting blog. I've decided to start the blog to give you an insight on how to make guaranteed profits through matched betting each day. I personally have an aim of £20 a day to hit my target of £600 a month, but usually exceed this. I haven't failed to meet this target for over a year (except when I was on holiday for three weeks last July). I do make the majority of my money from sports betting offers but also do the casino and bingo offers where time allows". The diary showed a list of different dates from the preceding month. Alongside each date, text stated, "Today's Profit ..." followed by amounts which ranged from £1.71 to £289.51. Each entry contained a link which went to a list which set out bets that had been placed that day and the amount of profit.
The complainant, who believed that the diary featured a fictional character, challenged whether the impression that similar profits were achievable in real life was misleading and could be substantiated.
OddsMonkey said the author of the diary was one of their employees and supplied documentation to support that. They said as part of his job he completed "Ben's Matched Betting Diary". In the blog, he recorded his profit and how he made it.
OddsMonkey supplied the diary entries for August and September 2017 showing the figures used to calculate the claim. They supplied details of the profits or losses achieved so far by 1,571 members who used OddsMonkey's profit tracker tool (they said other members chose not to use the tool, and so OddsMonkey did not have access to their records). They said earning potential varied according to the time members committed to matched betting. They said the author of the diary had around 18 months' experience and spent roughly three to four hours per day on matched betting. They said all members had access to the same training videos and that the author was earning less than other members with the same level of engagement and commitment. They therefore believed Ben's Matched Betting Diary was a fair representation of the earnings that could be expected from using the OddsMonkey software and working through the training guides and daily offers.
Regardless of whether the author of the blog was real or a fictional character, the ASA considered consumers would expect the level of success described in the diary to be typical of the success they were likely to be able to achieve when using OddsMonkey's service. We noted the text below the heading stated that the blogger had an aim of £20 a day and a target of £600 a month, which he said he usually exceeded, and that he had not failed to meet this target for over a year, apart from when he was on holiday. We considered consumers would see that as a level of success they were likely to be able to achieve for at least a similar time period. OddsMonkey, therefore, needed to hold evidence that showed that consumers were likely to be able to achieve a similar level of success over at least a similar time period.
We understood that matched betting involved taking advantage of promotional "free" bets offered by gambling operators. Customers were told to bet for and against a possible outcome with two different gambling operators offering the same odds so that the bets cancelled out – for example, betting on a horse to win a race with one operator and placing a lay bet (where the customer effectively plays the role of the bookmaker) with another operator on the same horse not to win. Where one of those bets was a promotional "free bet", a profit could be made because the customer did not have to pay for the stake.
We noted that, theoretically, the system eliminated the chance of losing a bet and acknowledged that if used correctly that would be the case with the advertiser's service. However, we noted that the process – which included meeting the requirements to unlock the "free" bets and manually placing the correct bets with separate gambling operators simultaneously while odds fluctuated – was long-winded and open to human error. If the instructions were not followed precisely, then mistakes could be made and customers could lose money. Furthermore, we understood that in certain instances winnings were refused for various reasons such as "bonus abuse" and terms and conditions of offers not being followed. We considered those were potential practical risks to the money consumers would place on bets using the service and would detract from any winnings.
Turning to the evidence OddsMonkey had supplied for the profits claim, we noted that OddsMonkey had customers whose records they did not have access to in addition to the 1,571 members whose records they had summarised. We considered therefore that the claim could not be said to be based on an average of their entire membership. The evidence did not explain what proportion of OddsMonkey's members the 1,571 figure represented, nor for how long the members had been using OddsMonkey and whether winnings were received in the kind of pattern and over a similar time period to that portrayed in Ben's Matched Betting Diary. We also noted that some of the 1,571 had made an overall loss. We accepted that an "average" could include losses as well as winnings of various amounts. The diary entries, however, showed only winnings of various amounts and did not contain any entries where the author had made a loss on a particular day. We considered that the diary entries were therefore not representative of the level of success OddsMonkey said their customers had achieved. Furthermore, the information OddsMonkey had supplied was based on a selection of their customers only, not their entire membership, and therefore did not provide a complete picture of the success OddsMonkey's customers had achieved.
Because OddsMonkey had not supplied adequate evidence to show that the level of success described in the blog was typical of the success customers were likely to be able to achieve when using OddsMonkey's service over at least a similar time period, we concluded that the claim made in the ad had not been substantiated.
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 ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told OddsMonkey not to make claims about the level of profits members were likely to be able to achieve, and for how long that would be sustained, unless they held adequate substantiation.