Published:  12:59 AM, 10 January 2019

BA flies in to gambling storm with casino winners ad

BA flies in to gambling storm with casino winners ad British Airways is enduring a spot of turbulence over one advert. -Getty

British Airways has been accused of glamorising gambling after it ran a television commercial featuring a couple easily winning money on slot machines, triggering complaints to the advertising regulator and anger from MPs and campaigners.

The advert, for British Airways Holidays, shows a couple returning to their room via what appears to be a hotel casino after a dip in the swimming pool. "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 said.

Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said he had been "stunned" by the advert and would be discussing the matter urgently with cross-party colleagues. He said: "Utterly appalling. What were they thinking?" A cross-party parliamentary group of MPs, led by the Labour MP Carolyn Harris, is expected to write to BA to condemn it for "glamorising" gambling.

The advert aired just weeks after gambling companies agreed strict limits on their own TV commercials to address concerns about the impact of a surge in gambling ads on vulnerable people, addicts and children. A spokeswoman for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the regulator had received several complains about the advert "on grounds that it promotes gambling and portrays it in a glamorous and frivolous way, and that it's therefore irresponsible".

Marc Etches, the chief executive of the UK's leading gambling charity GambleAware, raised concerns about the lack of messages about addiction that are required to appear alongside marketing for gambling companies.

"With 370,000 problem gamblers in Great Britain it is vital that we recognise gambling for the public health issue it is," he said. "The consequences of problem gambling can be devastating for individuals and families alike, and companies need to recognise their responsibility to make sure people are aware of the risks of gambling."

Matt Zarb-Cousin, of Fairer Gambling, who was at the centre of a successful campaign to restrict fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), criticised BA's choice of theme for its advert. "If BA instead glorified pot smoking to promote a route to Amsterdam in adverts shown before the watershed, it would surely raise some eyebrows.

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