Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, of which one was Upheld and one was Not upheld.
A paid-for ad for the matched betting website Profit Squad, which appeared on the football forum northstandchat.com, was seen in October 2016. The ad stated, "NSC has teamed up with Joe who is one of the co-founders of Profit Squad. At Profit Squad they focus on helping their members to earn 100% risk-free profits via matched betting…If you don’t make at least £100 in your first few weeks, both me and Profit Squad will be shocked". Under the heading “WHAT IS MATCHED BETTING?”, text stated “Matched betting is the easiest, safest way to make money from home. It’s basically the art of playing the bookies off against each other, using free bets and bonuses on a DAILY basis to generate steady 1-way profits without risking your own money”.
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the claim "helping their members to earn 100% risk-free profits" was misleading; and
2. the ad was irresponsibly targeted on a football forum where it could be viewed by children.
1. Profit Squad Ltd believed that the claim was not misleading as profits could be guaranteed. They provided an example of how matched betting worked.
2. Profit Squad said that they did not use any language or imagery that could be perceived to be targeting children. They said there would be no incentive for them to do so because customers had to prove they were at least 18 years of age for every website that they advise signing up to. They pointed out that the betting industry advertised for most sporting events on TV, billboards and on the internet, and therefore believed it would be inconsistent to prohibit them from advertising on a football forum.
Northstandchat.com said they had immediately removed the ad from the forum following receipt of the complaint, pending the outcome of the investigation. They said that, while they did not know everyone using their forum due to its size, they were not aware of any members under 18. They also believed that the subject matters on the forum were more suitable for an older audience.
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand the claims "100% risk-free profits" to mean that there was no possibility of losing money by using the advertised match betting system. Given that the product involved using a betting service, we considered that the claim that there was no risk involved was likely to be particularly enticing.
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. As such, we concluded that the claim “100% risk-free profits” was likely to mislead.
On that point, 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).
2. Not upheld
CAP Code rule 16.3.13 16.3.13 be directed at those aged below 18 years (or 16 years for football pools, equal-chance gaming [under a prize gaming permit or at a licensed family entertainment centre], prize gaming [at a non-licensed family entertainment centre or at a travelling fair] or Category D gaming machines) through the selection of media or context in which they appear prohibited gambling ads that were directed at those below 18 years of age, through the selection of media or context in which they appeared. The ad appeared on a football forum for the club Brighton & Hove Albion and featured forum threads on topics relating to football plus more general topics such as TV, music and politics. We did not identify any thread topics that appeared to be of particular interest to under-18s, and considered that there was no content more broadly on the website that appeared to be specifically targeted towards under-18s. We acknowledged that many under-18s were interested in football, and so some were likely to visit the football forum and might view the ad in question. We considered, however, that the football forum was likely to attract a predominantly adult audience and therefore concluded that the placement of the ad on the forum was not directed at those under the age of 18 years.
On that point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 16.3.13 16.3.13 be directed at those aged below 18 years (or 16 years for football pools, equal-chance gaming [under a prize gaming permit or at a licensed family entertainment centre], prize gaming [at a non-licensed family entertainment centre or at a travelling fair] or Category D gaming machines) through the selection of media or context in which they appear (Gambling), but did not find it in breach.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Profit Squad Ltd not to use the claim "100% risk-free profit" again to describe matched betting.