In our experience the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) do respond and will take action against bookmakers. The only downside and it is a big one, is that the penalties for ‘doing wrong’ are pathetic. A bookmaker has to be a serial, serious offender, before any sanctions, except ‘withdraw that advert’, ‘don’t do it again’ or ‘train your staff better’ are even considered, which hardly frightens large corporations. Nevertheless, they are a regulator where you may feel you have not just wasted your time.
What you can complain about is in the name, so no great clues needed there. Bookmakers certainly run unclear and misleading adverts. Some run adverts that are deemed unsuitable, e.g. racist or abusive adverts (you can guess who the main offender is). The ASA welcomes complaints about all these things. If you feel you have been ‘conned’ by unclear, misleading adverts or upset by abusive adverts do complain.
Less clear, but very important to this website as an issue, is whether advertising services that are not available to all customers is illegal advertising or not, e.g. advertising odds that are not laid to some, advertising promotions that are not available to some, etc? At present punters are losing this war, but all wars have a number of battles and one battle we think the ASA are sympathetic to, is bookmakers being more open about what exactly is being offered to customers.
This may not seem much, but it is potentially huge for the punter, e.g. Let’s say bookmakers are forced by the ASA to put small print on all their advertising, including the advertising of all their affiliates’ websites that says; “After the short term, which could be as little as 1-3 bets, these promotions and odds are only available to people who lose;” the account restrictions and closures problem would be over. No bookmaker is going to make this common practice as clear as this, so they will change. It is vital that bookmakers are able to ‘sell the dream’ that the punter can win in the medium to long term, which, of course, they cannot with most, if not all, major bookmakers. This ‘dream’, in the case of horse racing and some other sports is a thing of the past. Bookmakers are no longer run by ‘bookies’, they are run by accountants and bankers who see no need to offer a ‘dream’ (except in PR terms) to anyone, except those who speak or even keep quiet on their behalf. Keeping quiet is just as important as speaking on their behalf as they rely on the media, especially the sports media to keep their practices a secret.
In conclusion, do complain to the ASA and copy the correspondence to your MP. This maybe about a number of things as outlined, but please do consider complaining every time you have a promotion withdrawn or are refused a bet. Presently, your complaint will be useless if you don’t mention these injustices in the context of, it not being clear in adverts that these service withdrawals might happen, therefore it is only ‘fair and open‘ if bookmakers tell everyone very clearly on their advertising and before registering that these things will happen, e.g. we only deal with losers and are not ‘selling a dream’, because, guess what, it is the truth.
Complaining to the ASA is pretty easy. This link takes you to a webpage where you can make your complaint (click here).