The UK's Advertising Standards Authority has offered guidance on so-called matched betting, warning that advertising and marketing must be directed at those over 18, and should not imply that it is “risk free”.
Matched betting is a system where bettors wager on all possible outcomes of a certain event using free bets or other inducements offered by a bookmaker.
If the player covers all possible outcomes, the individual will be assured some kind of a winning bet.
If one of the wagers was a free bet, a profit is possible because the gambler did not pay for the bet, according to the ASA.
But matched betting services can be problematic with their marketing, if they exaggerate potential winnings and suggest financial security, the agency said.
As the ASA noted in one of its rulings, the technique of unlocking free bets and using them while odds fluctuate is complicated and prone to error.
The system can also violate bookmaker terms and conditions, meaning that they might consider it “bonus abuse” and invalidate the bet as a violation of those conditions, the ASA said.
In general, the ASA’s powers are voluntary, as it has no powers to fine violators.
But in gambling, its rulings are backed by Gambling Commission licensing codes and serious violations could incur fines.
Matched betting companies would be a different category, as they are not licensed and their techniques are not gambling, as the ASA points out.
But although they are not gambling companies, they are usually instructing players in how to bet, according to the agency.
They also enable that bet by directing the player to a bookmaker or betting exchange.
Therefore, ads should be “appropriately placed”, the ASA said.
Getting objective information on the practice might be a challenge.
A Wikipedia entry on matched betting includes a warning from editors that “this article has multiple issues” including “content that is written like an advertisement”, and that sources lack proper citations.
The UK’s ASA has been influential in laying out standards for gambling advertising, and in providing guidance on what constitutes an appeal to minors.
In April, the authority rebuked a matched betting site run by Grip Media called “Save the Student” because it was unable to provide sufficient documentation that less than 25 percent of its website audience was under 18.
It also found that Grip Media’s ads inappropriately suggested that matched betting was a substitute for employment, and understated the complexity of techniques that would generate the level of return suggested by the ads.