A TV ad for www.21.co.uk, an online gambling site, seen on 25 June 2018, featured a man in a tuxedo sitting at a blackjack table. The ad played a heartbeat sound whilst the voice-over stated, “His heart is pounding. His body is still. He shuffles his chips as he thinks. Heart versus head. Emotion versus reason. He makes his move.” There were close-up shots of the man’s face and of his eye, showing his pupil dilating before the dealer flipped over her final card to reveal her hand.
The complainant challenged whether the ad portrayed gambling in a context of toughness.
LeoVegas Gambling t/a 21.co.uk said that the ad was produced to address the concerns raised in a previous upheld ruling on the same issue. They said that they had removed a claim from the voice-over “He makes his own luck” and removed a scene showing the character betting all his chips to remove the suggestion that the character was displaying signs of mental toughness or resilience in the face of risk.
21.co.uk said that there were no physical actions or attributes of the character that indicated mental or physical toughness. They highlighted that the character was dressed in a dinner suit, which was compulsory at some high-end casinos. They said that the reference in the voice-over to “His heart is pounding” suggested that the player was experiencing an acceptable level of excitement or thrill. They said that the player’s tapping of fingers and shuffling his chips was a sign that he was giving due consideration to his next move. They argued that the scene with the character’s pupil dilating and the voice-over references to “heart versus head” and “emotion versus reason” demonstrated that the character was playing a game that combined rational strategy and luck. They also highlighted that there was no display of emotion in the character’s face.
Clearcast confirmed that the ad had been amended to address the previous ruling. They said that the man in the ad was shown concentrating with a calm and neutral expression. They said that his demeanour was cool rather than excited and did not change throughout the ad.
The ASA noted that the ad featured stylised, dramatic effects which emphasised that the player was in a tense, decisive moment in the game of blackjack. The player was shown tapping his fingers and his pupils were seen dilating, which we considered would be interpreted as signs of excitement or a thrill he was experiencing while playing. We acknowledged that online casino games were entertainment products that involved an element of risk, and it was reasonable to expect that consumers would experience some excitement when playing responsibly.
We noted that the ad did not focus on the stakes he was betting on the hand. Indeed, the amount at which he was betting was unknown and there was no suggestion in the ad that he was taking a major risk. We considered that the player was experiencing a level of anticipation about his next move which could be experienced by any player during a game of blackjack. We further considered that although the player maintained a calm demeanour throughout the ad, that alone did not amount to mental toughness or resilience. We therefore concluded that the ad did not portray gambling in a context of toughness and did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 17.3.8 (Gambling), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.