An ad that appeared on the Demand 5 video-on-demand service promoted an online direct debit offer for the Health Lottery whereby consumers could have their first two weeks play "free", as a refund from the advertiser, if they signed up online and paid for their tickets monthly. The voice-over stated, "This August save big money with the Health Lottery and our fantastic online direct debit offer. Just sign up online to play monthly by direct debit and we'll refund your first two weeks' play." Large text in the middle of the screen stated "TWO WEEKS FOR FREE!", and smaller text below stated "PAID FOR BY THE HEALTH LOTTERY". The voice-over then stated, "That's right, we'll pay for up to 40 lines played each draw, giving you an incredible £160 money back on us. And you'll never miss another draw again. The Health Lottery. You can only win it if you buy a ticket." Large text in the middle of the screen that corresponded with the voice-over stated "UP TO 40 LINES" and "UP TO £160 ON US".
The complainant challenged whether the ad condoned or encouraged gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible or could lead to financial harm.
The Health Lottery said their player protection measures prevented direct debit and online players from buying more than 40 tickets per draw. As there were two draws per week, the maximum spend was £320 per month (where a month was calculated as four weeks). The direct debit offer of two weeks free play therefore meant the maximum refund was £160.
They said their maximum play per draw of £40 ensured that there could be no excessive play on the Health Lottery. They noted that such caps on spending amounts were rarely seen in the gambling industry, and other lotteries did not automatically impose playing limits on their draw-based games.
The Health Lottery said the ad was not intended to encourage excessive play, but to reflect that players who purchased 40 entries per draw qualified for the refund. They said the ad was subject to a strict internal compliance and legal review, and pointed out that it featured the gambleaware.co.uk logo. They also stated that they had not received any complaints about the direct debit promotion that the ad publicised, which they had run from time to time for over two years. They explained that the Gambling Commission was aware of the promotion and had not raised concerns in line with the complaint.
We noted the Health Lottery's point that the ad was not intended to encourage excessive play, but to communicate the nature of the promotion and the maximum refund that could be achieved. However, we noted that the ad, through the voice-over and visuals, established an upbeat tone and focused on the maximum return. We considered that this emphasis on a £160 refund, which required a commitment of £320, was likely to encourage consumers who would not normally have spent £40 on twice weekly draws to spend more than they otherwise would have done, to their detriment in some cases. We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible and condoned and encouraged gambling behaviour that could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Compliance) and 17.1 17.1 Marketing communications must not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm. (Lotteries).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told The Health Lottery ELM Ltd to ensure that their ads in future did not encourage or condone gambling behaviour that could lead to harm.