FOUR popular gambling companies are under fire after rogue affiliates posted socially-irresponsible news posts.
The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is investigating complaints made against Ladbrokes, 888, SkyBet and Casumo regarding adverts which target vulnerable people.
While their affiliates posted the articles, the betting companies are likely to be penalised as the posts irresponsibly promote gambling.
According to The Guardian, the posts featured content which implied that gambling clears debts, with a story about a man who paid for his wife’s medical treatment by playing casino games. Three other posts were similar in nature.
The watchdog said the adverts breached the code because they suggested gambling “could provide an escape from personal problems such as depression and that it could be a solution to financial concerns”.
It also said the posts implied that they were true news articles.
While the affiliates are at fault, the ASA holds the companies responsible since they benefited from anyone who signed up via the posts.
The UK Gambling Commission, which oversees the four betting companies, has not revealed whether it will be fining Ladbrokes, SkyBet, 888 and Casumo.
“We expect operators to take action to ensure that they have a clear view of what their affiliates are doing on their behalf,” the UKGC said in a statement.
“Where operators fail to do this, we will not hesitate to use our powers to hold them to account.”
Ladbrokes commented on the situation, revealing that the company has “been working to improve the types of advertising and marketing used by affiliates.”
“Nobody in Ladbrokes Coral believes that this sort of ‘fake news’ marketing has a place in the sector,” the company added.
“We have been reducing the number of affiliates we work with as well as clamping down hard on anyone using our name without our knowledge in a bid to curtail this sort of activity going forward.”
A spokesperson for 888 said the company has terminated its business relationship with the affiliates behind the posts.
The spokesperson added that the company has “taken further steps to ensure this type of incident does not occur again”.
Sky Vegas also terminated its agreement with the affiliate – and ended its affiliate program completely -, while Casumo said it was the fault of an external “media buyer”.
Chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association, Clive Hawkswood, said affiliates need to be wary in regards to how they act.
“It would be wrong to tar all affiliates with the same brush,” he said.
“Hopefully lessons will be learned, but, if not, affiliates can expect to see operators reconsidering their relationships and the real prospect of direct regulatory action.”
888 recently received a record fine of £7.8 million after the UKGC found the company failed to implement adequate self-exclusion procedure. The UKGC also found 888 did not pick up on visible signs of problem gambling.