PokerStars “Socially Irresponsible” TV Ad Banned in UK

PokerStars “Socially Irresponsible” TV Ad Banned in UKThe UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has taken exception to a TV commercial run by PokerStars over the past few months, and has now banned the ad for exploiting inexperienced poker players, and suggesting that they could generate large winnings from the game by bluffing. According to ASA, the commercial was socially irresponsible, and encouraged reckless gambling.
As the regulator subsequently noted in its ruling, “excelling at poker required a combination of strategy, skill and luck and that, in order to regularly succeed at bluffing opponents, players would need to have an understanding of all these aspects in addition to real game experience.”
“You’re Already a Great Poker Player”
Since October 26th, 2017, PokerStars has been running a TV advert in the UK depicting a novice player involved in a home poker game with friends, who, with no apparent way to win a pot, decides to bluff all-in to the surprise of his opponents. All the time, a voice over proclaims:
“Here you are, the moment when bluffing is the only way to win, you’re freaking out kiddo, but think about all those times you bluffed yourself. Like the pull-up bar waiting for you to get back in-shape, that book you’re definitely going to read, your parents never ever had sex. Use that talent because if you can bluff yourself, you can bluff anyone. Pokerstars, you’re already a great poker player.”
ASA Ruling
Following its review, ASA found that the PokerStars ad promoted gambling in a recklessness manner that could result in “financial harm”, and so could no longer be shown on TV in its present form. Furthermore, PokerStars has been warned that its future adverts should not portray people gambling in a socially irresponsible way.
PokerStars Response
The advert showed the amateur player pushing all his chips to the center of the table, and in response to ASA’s ruling, PokerStars pointed out that there was “no reference to or suggestion of any financial reward or inducement to play and no money was shown during the ad.” The company further asserted that bluffing was a necessary skill to master in order to become a successful poker player, and that this facet of the game was “readily understood by novice players.”
PokerStars also maintained that the commercial was not implying that poker was an easy game to play, and that when the voice-over began, bluffing was the only option left open for the player in order to win the pot. Therefore, the reference was meant for just the hand in question, and “was not meant to relate to every hand in the game.”
Over the past few years, the poker industry has increasingly seen recreational players as representing the lifeblood of the industry, without whom there would be no fresh stream of income flowing into the game. This has been reflected in the targeting of more amateur players in TV commercials, and commenting upon its recent ad PokerStars did at least acknowledge that it had not originally considered whether it may have led to a wrong impression being given to newer players.
Complaint Upheld
Despite its response, ASA upheld that the advert depicted socially irresponsible gambling behavior that could lead to the adoption of reckless gambling habits. As a result, it was ruled to have violated the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code), and was subsequently ordered off the air, with PokerStars warned to ensure greater care in the future that its adverts did not breach required standards.
Closer Industry Scrutiny
PokerStars is just the latest in a long line of gambling companies to have fallen foul of the the UK’s Gambling Commission (UKGC) and Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in recent times. While PokerStars has managed to escape with a warning, however, other firms have had to face massive fines for their transgressions, with 888 receiving the biggest fine to date of £7.8 million, followed by William Hill (£6.2m), Camelot (£3m), Ladbrokes Coral (£2.3m), and Sky Bet (£1m).
Other gambling operators to have been hit with penalties for breaching UK rules also includes Betfred, Gala Coral, GVC Holdings, Paddy Power, BGO, Futgalaxy, and Stan James Online.

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