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ASA upholds complaint against Festival Free Bets

| By Marese O'Hagan
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint over an advertisement for Festival Free Bets posted by Astrid Wett, a social media influencer, because she is under the age of 25.

The advertisement posted by the under-25 Wett was seen on X (formerly Twitter) on 12 March 2024. It featured a picture of Wett at Cheltenham racecourse. The complaint questioned whether the ad contravened rules on gambling advertising, as Wett was only 23 years old at the time.

According to the ASA’s response, Wett said she was unaware of the age restrictions on ads for gambling as promulgated by the CAP Code. She had presumed that being over the age of 18 was sufficient.

The CAP Code outlines rules for certain advertising channels in the UK.

The ASA said that Wett apologised for the breach and she understood the importance of promoting responsible gambling.

ASA “concerned” by lack of communication from Festival Free Bets

However, Festival Free Bets did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries. The body said it was “concerned” by the “lack of response and apparent disregard for the code”.

The ASA subsequently ruled that Festival Free Bets had breached Cap Code rule 1.7. This rule states that any unreasonable delay to the ASA’s enquiries would constitute a breach.

The ASA reminded Festival Free Bets that it has a responsibility to respond quickly to enquiries and asked it to do this in the future.

In its assessment, the ASA reiterated that no one under the age of 25 should be featured in a “significant role” in marketing communications for gambling ads. The exception is marketing communications where a bet is placed directly through a transactional facility, such as an operator’s website, and the subject of the ad is also the subject of the bet.

“Although we acknowledged that Festival Free Bets was not itself a licensed gambling provider, using it would place consumers in a position where they would be interacting with gambling services,” read the ASA’s assessment.

“We therefore considered it would be irresponsible to feature someone who was aged under 25 playing a significant role in their ads.”

Ad ruled as irresponsible

Ultimately, the ASA ruled that Wett was the focus of the ad and therefore played a significant role. The body said that the ad also breached CAP Code rule 1.3, which states that marketing must be conducted responsibly.

The matter was referred to CAP’s compliance team. The ASA told Festival Free Bets that the ad must not appear again and to ensure ads only features individuals over the age of 25.

The ASA has criticised a number of gambling ads in recent months. In March, it ordered LeoVegas to withdraw a radio ad for its BetUK sportsbook. The ad featured Adebayo Akinfenwa, a retired footballer, who the ASA ruled could appeal to children.

Late last year, the ASA investigated a complaint against a Mecca Bingo ad that suggested that gambling can enhance self-esteem. The complaint was ultimately upheld.

Ahead of the upcoming Euro 2024 tournament, last month the ASA reiterated ad guidelines for operators. Operators must not feature individuals under the age of 25 in their advertising, which includes footballers. Ads must also not appeal to those under the age of 18.

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