Mia Gardner | 13 Apr 2018
The offending advert depicts a private poker game among a group of friends. A voiceover that directly addresses the viewer with the message that bluffing is sometimes the only way to win at poker. The ad insinuates that the viewer already knows how to bluff (and would, therefore, make a great poker player) because of situations in everyday life that necessitate the development of this skill.
The Advertising Standards Authority has described this message as a socially irresponsible promotion of reckless gambling practices. In light of this, ASA has ruled that the ad may not be broadcast again in its current form.
The complaint lodged with the UK Advertising Standards Authority in response to the PokerStars ad was that it exploited the ignorance of inexperienced players by insinuating that they good become expert poker players simply by mastering the art of bluffing and that this could result in substantial winnings.
ASA added to this its concern that the advertisement portrayed gambling as an activity in which recklessness pays off and therefore promoted socially irresponsible behaviour.
According to PokerStars, ASA’s claims are unfounded because the setting of the advert is a private home, in which friends enjoy a casual game of poker (i.e. not an actual casino with major jackpots in the offing). PokerStars maintains that no suggestion of significant financial reward for bluffing is made by the voiceover or visuals, nor does it promote reckless gambling.
The operator supported its defence by pointing out that bluffing is widely known as an important skill for players of both poker and various other card and board games. PokerStars added that bluffing, rather than a reckless act, can be a personal and well-calculated strategic decision.
PokerStars’s defence of its advertisement was not enough to satisfy the UK Advertising Standards Authority, which has ordered the Gibraltar-based operator to immediately cease broadcasting the ad.
According to ASA, the advertisement could influence players to place reckless bluff-based bets without first acquiring sufficient skill and exposure to the game of poker. ASA pointed out that success, as a poker player, requires a mixture of strategy, skill and good luck.
The watchdog therefore ruled that the PokerStars ad was socially irresponsible, thus violating its BCAP Code gambling-related rules 17.3.1 and 17.3.8. ASA cautioned PokerStars to take better care not to promote irresponsible gambling in future.