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Unibet Ads Deemed Misleading, Banned by ASA

The United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) does not take kindly to trickery or tomfoolery. No, it does not. Online gambling leader Unibet found this out recently as the ASA smacked the company on its proverbial rear for running misleading advertisements.

A series of ads for a “risk-free bet,” including a sponsored Google web search result, two sponsored Facebook news feed posts and a page on Unibet’s website itself were all checked out by the ASA. The wording of the different ads was similar in each, with some variations depending on the site.

The Facebook sponsored posts: “Will Man City beat Liverpool? Join Unibet for a £20 Risk Free Bet on today’s game! MANCHESTER CITY V LIVERPOOL £20 RISK FREE BET … Open an account today and we will cover the risk of your first bet up to £20.”

The sponsored Google search result: “Unibet £20 Risk Free Bet – Join Today and Bet on Football … Great Odds & Live Betting.”

The text on Unibet’s own website: “Placed a bet at the stadium? CLAIM YOUR £20 Risk Free Bet ……. #ARMCHAIREXPERTS … 1 REGISTER Open a Unibet account today 2 DEPOSIT Deposit fund using your preferred method payment 3 PLACE A BET If it loses, we will refund your first bet up to £20 BET NOW [link].”

One would think, seeing the ad, that it would mean a player could wager £20 on a match without worrying about losing. If you lose, you get your money back. If you win, great!

But that is not, apparently, how it worked.

According to the ASA’s adjudication response, the terms and conditions stated, “To withdraw your refunded stake you would have to wager it 6x (e.g. if you receive a £10 bonus, you must wager £60 to fulfill the terms),” meaning it wasn’t just a simple “get your money back if you lose” proposition as one would reasonably assume from seeing the ads. Unibet was not refunding the customer cash. It was just a bonus that required playthrough. The bet was not risk-free at all.

Unibet tried to counter by saying that the customer would not have to wager any new money to complete the promotional requirements. As was written in the ASA’s judgment:

Unibet explained that it was not the case that six unique bets were required to be placed as part of the turnover, but rather the subsequent bet placed in and with the turnover must be six times in value of the refunded stake. They stated that after the stake had been returned to the customer account as bonus as a result of losing the first bet, the customer could use this bonus fund to place further bets in the turnover; they would not need to wager their own money during the turnover process.

Unibet also said that “risk free bet” was a common term used in the gambling industry for promotions like this. Even if that is true, it is a total bullshit copout. I’ve been gambling online for a decade, mostly poker, and while I have a thorough understanding of bonuses and playthrough requirements (I have written articles explaining these things to beginners), I would not at all assume that if a site was advertising a “risk-free bet” that it meant that the site would reimburse my loss in the form of a bonus. Understanding how bonuses work, therefore, does not preclude someone for falling for this misleading advertisement.

Example of Unibet's ad

Yes, prospective customers could dive deeper into the terms and conditions, but as we know, since people are people, many will not and will rightfully assume that if they lose their bet, they will get their money back in cash. Unibet should at least make it totally obvious that terms apply and that customers need to read them.  (Example Unibet ad at right.)

The ASA agreed with me (or did I agree with the ASA?), writing in one part of the ruling:

Notwithstanding the ASA’s assessment on the claim “risk free bet” outlined in Issue 1, we considered that the requirement to place further bets at specified odds using the returned bonus funds in order to withdraw the stake from the lost first bet in cash to be a significant condition that was likely to affect consumers’ understanding of the nature of the offer. Such a significant condition should either have been made clear in the ads or the ads should have clearly indicated the offer was subject to significant condition and directed consumers to the significant condition if the ad was limited by space. We considered this was of particular importance given the possibility that consumers might not be able to recover the stake of the first bet, and was therefore likely to influence their decision on whether or not to take up the offer.

The ASA has told Unibet to pull the ads and to not run advertisements for the same type of promotion using the term “risk free bet.” For future ads, Unibet must also make “clear all material information and significant conditions of the offer, such as the requirement to place further bets at specified odds.”


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