In a landmark ruling, the UK advertising watchdog – the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) – declared that gambling can be a positive experience. A complaint was filed with the ASA against the bookmaker William Hill, and the resulting decision has caused the authority to make a statement on how – when carried out responsibly – gambling can indeed be a positive experience and make people happier.
Anyone signed up to a mobile or online casino will know that, unless you’re very lucky, you’re likely to be inundated with promotional material into your inbox. Well, William Hill is no different to most casinos out there and sent out an email to its players and those on its mailing list, detailing the bonuses players can enjoy when they deposit for the first time. The problem, however, arose from the subject line of the email, which read: “You were born to be happy”.
While most of us would probably shrug this comment off as a gross misrepresentation of the facts of life, one recipient took issue with the wording of the subject line and reported William Hill to the ASA, stating that the email was irresponsible and suggested that gambling was a sure fire route to happiness.
Before the ASA had a chance to release its verdict, William Hill came out in its own defence, stating that the subject line had no specific relation to the offer detailed in the email and that it understood that gambling doesn’t always lead to happiness. It needn’t have really done that, though, given that when it had weighed up all the facts, the ASA gave William Hill an even stronger defence.
Firstly, it suggested that the recipient should have understood the lack of correlation between the words he was taking offence to and the content of the email. It also pointed to research by the Democracy Institute’s Dr. Patrick Basham – author of A Healthy Bet – which demonstrates that for those without addictive tendencies, gambling can have positive effects on their happiness.
What the Decision Means
While this case both highlights some interesting issues surrounding the advertising of online and mobile gambling, as well as demonstrating the importance of watchdogs like the ASA and the UK Gambling Commission in promoting responsible gambling, the decision won’t necessarily effect that much change in the way gambling is promoted.
The whole ethos of advertising mobile casinos is suggesting that players will have a good time and might win some money. While you have to be careful how much you stress these points or present them as solid fact, they are fundamentally true. If the majority of people who gamble didn’t enjoy it, there’d be no gambling industry to speak of. William Hill may have gotten a fright when they were first told about the complaint, but will no doubt feel vindicated by the decision of the ASA.