PR Bluff Lands PokerStars in Hot Water With ASA

PokerStars has been forced to cancel a TV advert after the Advertising Standard Agency (ASA) deemed it socially irresponsible.

PokerStars banned advert.

A PokerStars advert has been canned after it falsely implied that anyone can become a great poker player. (Image: Vimeo/PokerStars)

Assessing the online poker site’s recent campaign, the ASA ruled that the advert about bluffing gave novice players a false sense of confidence in relation to the game.

Although it accepted that trying to dupe an opponent is part of poker, the suggestion that someone could use experiences from everyday life to master the technique was considered misleading.

False Claims About Bluffing

In conclusion, the ASA determined that the advert implied that bluffing was “not a reckless act in itself,” which could potentially lead players to bet in a manner that “could lead to financial harm.”

“The ASA considered that consumers would interpret the ad to mean that if they could bluff through the real-life experiences shown in the ad, for example convincing themselves they would use a pull-up bar, then they would already be a great poker player and could excel at the game,” read the ASA’s April 4 verdict.

In light of the decision, the PokerStars advert can no longer be broadcast in its current form. Given the intimate link between the scenarios listed in the video, i.e. convincing yourself you’re going to read a book you never will, and the underlying message, it’s unlikely the piece can be altered.

Indeed, by explicitly saying that “you’re already a great poker player” simply because you can “bluff yourself,” it would be difficult for the advert to be made acceptable without changing it completely.

UKGC Continues to Tighten Its Rules

The recent ruling against PokerStars comes just two days after the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) published it new guidelines on betting adverts. Based on guidance from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP), the new rules came into effect on April 2.

At the heart of the new policy is the protection of vulnerable players. Working in conjunction with the ASA, the UKGC is looking to crackdown on adverts that inaccurately portray the nature of gambling and, moreover, the potentially negative effects on a person’s wellbeing.

“Marketing communications must not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm,” reads the codes published by the ASA.

The UKGC has moved against a number of UK betting operators in recent months for failing to uphold their social responsibility duties. 888 was hit with a £7.8 million fine in August 2017 for failing to stop self-excluded players from playing on the network, while Lottoland’s unclear marketing communications cost the company £150,000 in 2017.

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