The online casino Casumo has been forced to retract an advert that offered free spins and bonuses to people who Googled ways to bar themselves from gambling.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint about an advert, paid for by Malta-based Casumo, which has previously paid penalties of £5.85m for failures in systems designed to protect problem gamblers, reports The Guardian.
The advertising regulator said the complainant had searched: “How to unsubscribe from all gambling,” only for an advert for a Casumo app to appear.
The advert, in the paid-for listings that appear above organically generated search results, was headed: “Welcome bonus to new players Casumo 100% and 20 free spins,” and also invited people to “create an account & play now!”
Casumo told the ASA it had systems in place to stop its adverts appearing when certain search terms were used, to avoid fuelling problem gambling.
But the company said it had not included “unsubscribe” within those terms because it felt it was associated with customers wanting to be removed from mailing lists or marketing, rather than trying to block themselves from gambling.
Gambling companies are required to assist problem gamblers in excluding themselves from betting activity.
An industry-wide tool, called GamStop, designed to enable addicts to bar themselves from all gambling sites at a stroke, has been beset by problems and is yet to be approved by the Gambling Commission.
Casumo, which removed the ad at the ASA’s request, told the regulator that it could not anticipate every variation of Google search terms to ensure consumers were not shown its adverts.
The ASA said: “We acknowledged that on receipt of the complaint Casumo had immediately taken action to address where their ads were served. “However, because we considered there was a strong possibility that vulnerable consumers seeking to prevent exposure to gambling ads and access to gambling websites might have been served a gambling ad following a search for ‘how to unsubscribe from all gambling’, we concluded that the ad had not been responsibly targeted.”
Casumo was one of three online casino firms forced by the Gambling Commission to pay £14m in penalties last year, over failings in systems designed to prevent money laundering and protect problem gamblers.
It was also accused earlier this year of ignoring a gambling addict’s “obvious” signs of addiction, as she blew £125,000 while receiving inducements to bet.