The home page of www.oddsmonkey.com, seen in November 2018, stated "Make Money Online with OddsMonkey. OddsMonkey makes it simple for you to earn a tax-free second income". Further text stated "How does Matched Betting Work? With our bespoke software and a bit of good, old-fashioned maths, you can minimise the risk associated with ordinary betting. Because matched betting isn't gambling; it's about maximising your profit potential with the original developers of the UK's leading software".
The complainant, who believed that the ad underplayed the risks involved in matched betting, objected that it was irresponsible.
DotNetPages Ltd t/a OddsMonkey said they had taken care to construct their copy carefully and in a socially responsible manner to ensure it encapsulated that matched betting was not gambling and used mathematics and the company’s own proprietary software to minimise the risk associated with ordinary gambling. They said they did not claim that matched betting was 100% risk free. They believed that “you can minimise the risk associated with ordinary betting” was a fair and responsible statement. By using software to calculate the appropriate back bets and opposing lay bets, the risks associated with ordinary betting were minimised. They said the OddsMonkey website provided training, tutorials, software and calculators to help members use matched betting as a way to make money online. They referred to positive reviews and ratings they had received from customers.
The ad was headed “Make Money Online with OddsMonkey. OddsMonkey makes it simple for you to earn a tax-free second income”. Further text stated “you can minimise the risk associated with ordinary betting”. The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand that matched betting was an easy method of making money online, which could allow them to earn enough to make a significant contribution to their finances overall. We noted that there was no reference to any specific risks that might be involved. The statement “Because matched betting isn't gambling; it's about maximising your profit potential with the original developers of the UK's leading software” presented the service in a context of relative risk compared to traditional betting, which in the context of the other elements in the ad, contributed to an overall impression that there was very little to no risk to users’ money when engaging in matched betting.
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 – required consumers to follow a relatively complicated sequence of actions and was 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.
Given the ad’s focus on the simplicity and high earning potential of the service, and its relative level of risk by comparison with traditional betting, in combination with the lack of prominent information about the actual risks involved, we concluded that it was irresponsible and therefore breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told DotNetPages Ltd t/a OddsMonkey not to present their matched betting service in an irresponsible manner, for example, by underplaying the risks involved.