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A William Hill TV spot has fallen foul of a Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ban this week, after a promotion for a bonus payout feature was banned for misleading punters.

Almost five months after the commercial aired in the UK, the ASA has told William Hill that the spot must not appear again in its current form, after it objected to the way that the bookmaker described the qualifying conditions for its '2 Clear' free bet bonus.

The ad in question, broadcast on 15 September 2017, encouraged punters to make use of the '2 Clear' promotion, which added a 15% bonus on to their winnings if their runner won by two lengths or more. Throughout the spot, on-screen wording and a voiceover described the promo as a "free bet bonus" for "any live TV flat race".

However, the watchdog investigated after one complainant questioned whether the condition that the promotion only applied to horse races which had at least six runners was made clear enough to viewers.

While the requirement was explained in the ad by on-screen small print, the ASA pointed out that this appeared to be contradicted by larger, more prominent wording and the spot's voiceover, which it said implied that the bonus could be used on all live televised races. "Significant qualifications for the advertised free bet weren't prominently included in the main body of the ad," the ASA said.

The watchdog added that, since horses regularly drop out of flat races at the last minute, punters could have placed a bet on a race expecting to qualify for a bonus and not potentially receive one, an outcome which was not explained in the ad.

For their part, William Hill said that it "considered consumers would have been well informed" when placing their bets and argued that the spot complied with industry best practice on gambling ads.

Ads containing urgent calls to action, bonuses and promotions are set to come under greater scrutiny amid fears that vulnerable bettors are being targeted.

Earlier this month, updated gambling ad guidelines were published by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), reflecting increasing pressure from the UK government to clamp down on misleading and bad gambling ad practices.
Shahriar Coupal, director of CAP, said: "We won’t tolerate gambling ads that exploit people’s vulnerabilities or play fast and loose with eye-catching free bet and bonus offers."

In January, the Gambling Commission appealed for greater regulatory powers that would allow it to fine bookmakers who are found guilty of breaching advertising regulations.