British Airways has withdrawn a TV ad featuring holidaymakers making easy money from slot machines after a group of MPs complained that the airline was glamorising gambling.
The decision comes after MPs including the former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and the Labour gambling campaigner Carolyn Harris wrote to the company urging it to pull the “ill-judged” advertisement.
“Having spent many hours in recent months listening to harrowing stories of futures that have been ruined, families that have been destroyed and lives that have been lost as a direct result of gambling, we were appalled to see such a well-respected company glamorising it,” they wrote in a letter to the BA chief executive, Alex Cruz.
Harris also complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which received several complaints after the ad was shown this week. In a letter to Harris, the advertising regulator said BA had responded to its initial enquiries by removing the advert from transmission.
“Given that BA have confirmed that the ad will no longer be appearing, we will not be pursuing further action at this time,” the ASA wrote. “However, we agree that gambling is one of the most sensitive areas of advertising and, consequently it’s one we keep under constant review.
“We will keep a record of this example to help build a picture of BA [and] the portrayal of gambling as well as the broader issues that affect consumers.”
The ad for British Airways Holidays shows a couple returning to their room via what appears to be a hotel casino after a swim.
“We had a bit of spare change so we put it in the slot machines … and won a couple of dollars. So we put it back in and the next thing we knew we’d won $493. Luckiest dip ever,” they say.
The ad aired just weeks after gambling companies agreed to strict limits on their TV ad campaigns to address concerns about the impact of a surge in gambling ads on vulnerable people, addicts and children.
A British Airways Holidays spokesperson said: “While the British Airways Holidays advert was cleared by the industry body Clearcast, and has received only 11 complaints, we made the decision to replace the advert with another one from our series celebrating a range of special moments that millions of British Airways Holidays customers experience every year.”