May 30, 2008

William Hill responds to ASA ban; questions National Lottery

William Hill has responded to a decision by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ban one of its television advertisements by saying it was “disappointed” by the judgement, and has asked for parity with the UK National Lottery, adding that the minimum age for the purchase of lottery tickets and products should be raised to 18.

A statement from the company said: “We are disappointed by the ASA’s ruling, which was based upon just three complaints from an audience of several million viewers. We take our role in encouraging socially responsible gambling very seriously and the William Hill Bingo advert was designed to be humorous and light-hearted, emphasising the fun aspects of playing bingo.”

The ASA ruling judged that the woman’s impatience to get her husband out of the house to play bingo showed signs of addiction. William Hill disagreed and said the woman’s behaviour was not an indication of “problem gambling” and was aimed at poking fun at an everyday domestic situation.

William Hill’s statement added: “Whilst we accept the ASA’s ruling and have taken on board its observations, we remain confused by a situation, where this advert is deemed in breach of advertising codes, whilst Camelot can run the National Lottery, exploiting a situation whereby 16-year-olds are allowed to buy scratch cards and sales are increasing through the marketing of themed products for feature films such as Indiana Jones, which appeal directly to minors.”

In terms of the National Lottery comparison, the statement added: “If the government is serious about social responsibility, is it not time to raise the minimum age for sales of lottery products to 18 and bring Camelot in line with general compliance by including it under the Gambling Commission?”

The ASA deemed that the advert depicted addictive behaviour, with gambling taking preference over family life, and implied that the woman in the advertisement was “desperate to play online bingo and needed her husband to leave the house immediately to enable her to” do so.

The advert shows a woman moving a clock hand forward so her husband leaves the house, leaving her free to play bingo online. The number of complaints about the advertisement totalled seven. In its adjudication, the ASA said: “Three viewers objected that the ad was harmful because they believed it depicted someone who was addicted to gambling and was attempting to hide that from their family.”

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