PokerStars conflict with UK Advertising Standards Authority

The Isle of Man based giant online poker website PokerStars was in conflict with the UK Advertising Standards Authority this week over its new "Play Mind Games" poster campaign, reports The Guardian newspaper.

The campaign features top pro poker player Daniel Negreanu holding an ice hockey stick and sporting the line: "Poker is a sport of courage, conviction and confidence," and the Authority, which has been strict in its adjudication of gambling advertisements, invoked the guidelines that ads are not allowed to link gambling with sexual success, an improved self-image or appeal to children or young people.

PokerStars argued that the ad was based upon Negreanu's own opinion that success in poker required courage, conviction and confidence and that this was appropriately conveyed by the picture of him with the ice hockey stick and the use of the word "sport". The poster in no way implied that a person would acquire or improve upon these virtues as a result of gambling, the poker site asserted, and the reference to the offending terms was intended to highlight the difference between poker and other forms of gambling where the human elements affecting the outcome is significantly less.

The company argued that it was widely understood by the general public that poker was a game of tactics and ingenuity, and that the poster accurately positioned poker in a sporting context where self belief was a key factor.

However, the ASA ruled that the statement contained attributes that demonstrated mental toughness or resilience, and could be seen as admirable qualities in the target audience of 21 to 44 year old men. The claim implied not only that those qualities were needed in order to play poker, but also that success at poker would enhance those qualities in a player, and therefore breached CAP Code clauses 57.4(f) and 57.4(i) (Gambling) and the material was not to be used again.

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