Ladbrokes Violates New Gambling Advertising Rules by Featuring Premier League Players

  • The ASA upheld its original ruling on Wednesday following an appeal by Ladbrokes
  • A Ladbrokes tweet featuring Premier League players was deemed to appeal to underage people
  • Ladbrokes claimed that it had taken proper steps to age-restrict the ad
  • ASA stated Twitter’s age verification policy isn’t strong enough to properly age-restrict content
  • Relatively new rules place stricter controls on ads that might appeal to children
Ladbrokes logo on a smartphone
Ladbrokes has violated new gambling-related ad rules over a tweet that featured Premier League players. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

No U-turn

Ladbrokes appears to be the first gambling operator to breach new gambling-related advertising rules in the UK. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) issued a ruling on Wednesday regarding a tweet from Ladbrokes in October.

tweet features people who would strongly appeal to people younger than 18

An embedded video in the tweet featured various Premier League players, including Jesse Lingard and Philippe Coutinho. The ASA has stated that this tweet features people who would strongly appeal to people younger than 18 years old, which means that it breaches new regulations.

While Ladbrokes appealed the original complaint, the ASA upheld its decision. As a result, Ladbrokes can no longer show the ad in its current form and the ASA has reminded Ladbrokes to not include anyone in an ad who might strongly appeal to underage people.  

A failed appeal

Ladbrokes contested the original ruling from the ASA, claiming that the marketing team had carefully taken into account the new regulations. It acknowledged that Premier League players do often have high appeal to children, which is why it used various age-gating and targeting tools to try to exclude under-18s from seeing the tweet. The operator also claimed that it was not a marketing message, as there was no promotional deal or call-to-action included.

Only Twitter users who have stated that they are at least 18 years old can access the Ladbrokes feed. Ladbrokes is aware that users self-verify their age on Twitter, which is why it only targets people who are over 25 years old with its social media ads. Ladbrokes provided data from Twitter showing that the tweet in question was boosted to only reach people who were at least 25.

age verification process on Twitter is not good enough

In upholding its original ruling, the ASA explained that the age verification process on Twitter is not good enough to make Ladbrokes’ ad acceptable. It did say that such an ad would be allowable if more effective age-gating was possible.

New advertising rules

The previous rules stated that a gambling-related ad could not be of particular appeal to children. Once an ad did not disproportionately appeal to children over adults, it was permitted. However, the ASA and the Committee of Advertising Practice introduced a new code this year that prohibits any gambling-related ads that could strongly appeal to children, regardless of the appeal to adults.

Ladbrokes has a history of falling foul with the authorities. Earlier in 2022, Ladbrokes’ parent company Entain received a record-breaking £17m ($21m) fine from the UK Gambling Commission for its social responsibility and anti-money laundering failings.

As a result, these new rules have a major impact on how sportspeople and other celebrities can appear in gambling-related ads. In general, Premier League players are not allowed to be featured in gambling ads unless there is a way to limit the audience to people who are at least 18 years old.