The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld two complaints made over a television advert used to promote PokerStars.
The complaints challenged whether the advert sought to exploit inexperienced poker players by suggesting that they could easily excel at the game and make large winnings, as well as whether the advert portrayed gambling in the context of recklessness.
A key part of the the advert in question, was the use of a voice-over which stated: “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”.
Responding to complaints against the advert, PokerStars outlined: “The advert was intended to reflect a small, relaxed environment. There was no reference to or suggestion of any financial reward or inducement to play and no money was shown during the ad. When the voice-over stated that bluffing was the only way to win it was only in reference to the hand that the player had and was not meant to relate to every hand in the game.”
It added that that it didn’t consider the advert suggested “a financial reward of any kind in relation to winning and that the chips used were indicative of tracking a players progress and not representative of money”. PokerStars also pointed to the adverts style and tone as evidence that the advert didn’t suggest that players could win lots of money. Emphasising that the phrase “great poker player” meant a person who was very good at poker and that the humour in the ad was meant to show the main protagonist as an individual in possession of one of the skills necessary to play poker and how it was used in other aspects of their life.
Nonetheless, the ASA upheld the complaints against the advert, ruling that it believed the advert could lead to players believing they could bluff their way to being a great poker player. Subsequently, the ASA has ruled that the advert must not be shown again in its current form, and warned PokerStars against portraying gambling in a socially irresponsible manner or in the context of recklessness in the future.