The Swedish Patent and Market Court has ruled in favour of the country’s Consumer Ombudsman and against Global Gaming's Ninja Casino, determining that the brand's use of full-screen pop-up ads contravenes the legal requirement for “moderation” in gambling advertising.
The ruling will not have a significant impact on Ninja Casino, as the operator’s licence was revoked in June and Global Gaming’s appeal against the revocation was rejected in August. However, the ruling may set precedent regarding other licensees' gambling marketing.
The Ombudsman argued that an advertisement for Ninja Casino was in breach of Section 47 of the Swedish Gaming Act. This states: “when marketing [gambling products] to consumers, moderation must be observed” – but does not outline this in greater detail.
In total, the watchdog received 20 complaints about the ad, all of which were upheld by the court.
The advertisement in question was a full-screen pop-up ad, referred to as a “takeover ad”, on tabloid news site Aftonbladet. The Consumer Ombudsman said it considered the advertisement to be “intrusive.”
In addition, the Ombudsman said that the ad's content was likely to encourage excessive gambling. It focused on the ease of use for depositing and withdrawing funds, and the prospect of winning large jackpots.
“Claims about quick payments and the ease of use could lead to consumers making unwise decisions on starting or continuing to gamble,” it explained.
The Ombudsman added that calls to “play now” target more vulnerable customers and references to “success tactics” implied a level of skill that was not grounded in truth.
Elec Games, Global Gaming’s Maltese subsidiary, argued the advertisement was moderate and that the advertising requirements set out in the Gaming Act do not refer to the way an ad is presented.
“The requirement of moderation is directed at the content of the marketing and the ad's design, not how it is technically presented,” it explained.
Furthemore, Elec Games argued that it did not exaggerate the chances of winning large jackpots, pointing out that it made no reference to the likelihood of a player scooping the jackpots promoted in the ad.
In addition, it claimed, there was no relationship between marketing and problem gambling.
However, the court ruled that the “takeover” ad format was not moderate, as a potential customer must engage with the advertisement in order to see the website they originally wished to visit.
“A consumer in the target group, that has difficulty setting limits on their gambling, may wish to avoid being exposed to situations that may trigger an inducement to play, such as situations where he or she is exposed to the gambling advertisements,” Court chairman Alexander Ramsay explained. “A takeover ad appearing on a non-gaming site such as Aftonbladet is very difficult to avoid […].”
In addition, the court ruled that the ad’s references to “success tactics” suggested players can influence the result of a game, which is not “factually balanced or valid.”
The court also pointed to references to being able to gamble on an indivdual's commute, which it said would be considered an abnormal time to play. The ad was therefore promoting irresponsible gambling, it ruled.
Under the ruling, Ninja Casino may not promote its games online except on websites owned by Elec Games. Elec Games must also pay the Consumer Ombudsman’s legal fees. Global Gaming has until 13 December to decide whether it will lodge an appeal against the ruling.