888 to Withdraw Controversial Ads in the UK

Online gambling giant 888 has stated that it will remove some advertisements from various locations in the UK, especially London's transport network.

888 admitted that the gambling ads could be interpreted in a manner different from the aims of its marketing campaign.

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The decision follows a public outcry over the tone the betting operator used in the ads promoting online casino games, which have been linked to higher rates of harm compared to other gambling products, according to data from NHS surveys.

The ads are part of a marketing campaign launched by 888 across London's public transportation network to promote its online casino services to passengers. They appeared in the London underground, on trains, buses, and even in black cabs with catchy slogans like "This carriage is now a casino" and "Fancy a spin?"

We continuously listen to feedback regarding the effectiveness of our advertising campaigns and acknowledge that, whilst fully compliant with all advertising regulations and standards, our latest campaign could be interpreted in a different manner to the brand position we aim for. As a result, we have decided to change the focus of this campaign and are withdrawing certain adverts that are currently running.


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Criticisms for Sadiq Khan and TfL

Transport for London (TfL), the body responsible for London's transport networks, and the capital's mayor, Sadiq Khan, were also targets of the backlash. Critics, including Khan's Conservative rival, Susan Hall, a leading clinician, and a group of peers, questioned TfL's decision to allow the controversial ads to run on the transport network.

Sadiq Khan's inconsistency in what adverts he allows and what ones he bans is baffling for Londoners. He is … banning adverts featuring cheese or strawberries and cream, while being completely relaxed about vaping and gambling? We need a common sense, clear approach to this, not one that allows the mayor … to play favourites.

Susan HallMember of the London Assembly

In a manifesto in 2021, Khan promised to prohibit gambling ads on London's transport network. However, TfL had continued to allow promotions for bookmakers and online casinos, citing the need for revenue. Gambling firms have collectively spent nearly £1.8 million advertising on the network in the past two years.

Responding to the criticisms, TfL noted that the 888 ads adhered to the broadcasting regulator's code and its internal policies, stipulating that ads should not "trivialize" gambling.

With less than a week before Londoners vote for their next mayor, it is evident that this issue will form a significant part of a critical campaign issue that Khan's opponents may likely use to reduce his support at the polls.


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