British Airways is under fire for an ad which glamorized gambling. The commercial features a couple playing on slot machines, easily winning money. The ad has created an uproar of complaints that have been made to the UK’s Advertising Standards Association (ASA) as well as British Airways.

Online anti-gambling campaigners started the furor, but now members of parliament who have strongly scrutinized the airlines advertisement.

According to a spokeswoman for the Advertising Standards Authority, they had already received several complaints regarding the airline’s advertisement “on grounds that it promotes gambling and portrays it in a glamorous and frivolous way, and that it’s therefore irresponsible”.

Former Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith, talked about his lack of support and total disapproval of the advert. Smith said he was completely “stunned” by the crass nature of the airlines commercial. Smith said he would be discussing the advert with cross-party members.

Smith added, “Utterly appalling. What were they thinking?”

Sales Copy in British Airways Commercial

In the British Airways Holiday Advertisement, it follows a more than happy couple back to their room, which looks to be in a hotel casino, after having taken a dip in the pool. The advert shows the couple playing some slots, while they openly have a dialogue about how much they won.

The couple says, “We had a bit of spare change, so we put it in the slot machines…and won a couple of dollars. So, we put it back in and the next thing we knew we’d won $493. Luckiest dip ever.”

The aforementioned cross-party parliamentary group, headed by Labor MP Carolyn Harris, plans to write a complaint to British Airways regarding their glamorization of gambling.

GambleAware’s Marc Etches Complains

The ad seemed to come at just the wrong time considering. Just weeks before the advert aired, gambling companies agreed to place strict limits on their own TV commercials. Gambling companies found that major negative impacts could be had with the rise in gambling adverts on vulnerable people, youth and addicts.

Marc Etches, the chief executive of GambleAware — the UK’s leading gambling charity — spoke about the problem not only being the amount of gambling commercials. Etches believes advertisements and messages for gambling addiction should be required to go along with the adverts that show the fun of gambling.

The GambleAware CEO said, “With 370,000 problem gamblers in Great Britain it is vital that we recognize gambling for the public health issue it is,” Etches said. “The consequences of problem gambling can be devastating for individuals and families alike, and companies need to recognize their responsibility to make sure people are aware of the risks of gambling.”

Fairer Gambling Piles On

Fairer Gambling, another public policy group in the UK, compared the British Airways ad to an airline commercial which might glamorize pot smoking in a notable hotbed of marijuana. Matt Zarb-Cousin, of Fairer Gambling, was not a fan of British Airways theme choice for the advertisement.

Zarb-Cousin, who was at the forefront of a campaign aiming to restrict fixed-odds betting (FOBTs), said, “If BA instead glorified pot smoking to promote a route to Amsterdam in adverts shown before the watershed, it would surely raise some eyebrows. There is very little difference here.”

British Airways Defends Ad Campaign

British Airways stands by their commercial despite all of the backlash is has received. Though they might face multiple calls to withdraw the advert from the air, they have continued to ensure the appropriateness of the ad.

A spokesperson from British Airways Holidays said: “This advert is one of a series which has been broadcast by us over the last three years, promoting a range of special memories that millions of British Airways Holidays’ customers experience when they travel with us every year.

“The advert was cleared with the industry body, Clearcast, ensuring it is appropriate for broadcast.”

Possible Fine for British Airways?

With the recent changes on gambling ads and other new strict policies put into place, the UK Gambling Commission has been heavy on fining those gambling companies who violate gaming regulations. British Airways, which has no history with gaming-related commercials, might not understand the current mood of the advertising regulators towards gambling.

The UK has strict regulations on gaming ads, though a commercial which does not intend to convince people to gamble more might skirt past the regulators. Only time and the Advertising Standards Authority will tell.

About the Author
April Bergman avatar
April Bergman

April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

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April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

READ MORE
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