Pressure to Ground British Airways Gambling Ad Following Political Backlash

A British Airways advert has crashed and burned after Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith described its references to gambling as “utterly appalling.”

British Airways

British Airways has found itself in the eye of a storm after MPs take issue with gambling content in one of its ads. (Image: Dertour)

A long-time critic of the UK gaming industry, Smith was “stunned” by the airline operator’s decision to feature gambling in one of its ads according to a report by The Guardian.

MPs Take Issue with Slots Content

Despite being given the greenlight by clearance agency Clearcast, British Airways has received a number of complaints about the commercial. Although it doesn’t encourage gambling, some viewers believe the depiction of a couple winning money from a slot machine is “glorifying” the issue.

“We had a bit of spare change so we put it in the slot machines … and won a couple of dollars. So, we put it back in and the next thing we knew we’d won $493. Luckiest dip ever,” reads the advert’s script.

In response to the backlash, a cross-party parliamentary group led by the Labour MP Carolyn Harris is expected to write to British Airways condemning the PR campaign. Defending its position, a spokesperson said that it was never the company’s intention to promote gambling.

“This advert is one of a series which has been broadcast by us over the last three years, promoting a range of special memories that millions of British Airways Holidays’ customers experience when they travel with us every year,” the representative said in a January 9 press statement.

Turbulence for British Airways

While some may deem the advert innocuous, TV content featuring betting and gaming has become a sensitive topic in recent months. In addition to operators falling foul of advertising guidelines, a glut of betting adverts during the 2018 World Cup prompted a series of legal changes in late 2018.

Ahead of the festive season, the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) confirmed that gaming companies had agreed to a whistle-to-whistle ban on betting adverts. Coming into effect later this year, the ban will prevent betting content from being shown five minutes before or during live sports events.

The only exception will be horse racing which derives virtually all of its revenue from sports betting.

The restrictions are a sign of the times and part of the government’s new plan to tackle problem gambling. As well as curbing gambling adverts, Prime Minster Theresa May has announced that specialist clinics will be set-up across the country to help those with serious gambling issues.

British Airways has unwittingly flown headfirst into this storm and may now be forced to take down its advert following a review by the Advertising Standards Agency.

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