ASA tells Health Lottery not to exaggerate the chances of winning big

The ASA has just upheld a complaint against the Health Lottery, a bona fide society lottery that raises money for health-related good causes in the UK, ruling that the Health Lottery had exaggerated the likelihood of winning a large cash prize.

In a Facebook post in January this year, the Health Lottery, which runs five draws a week, claimed that participants could win a jackpot of ‘up to £100k’ and that ‘up to £500k’ could be won every week. The maths on this one is slightly complicated, but the ASA’s decision was simple – the Facebook post was misleading. No one had won £100k since February 2015, when five weekly draws had been introduced, so the ASA decided that the daily and weekly jackpot claims were not realistic and consumers were being misled.

The Health Lottery had worked with the Gambling Commission to ensure it wasn’t contravening section 88 of the Gambling Act 2005, which covers the maximum top prize that can be offered in large society lottery and states that prizes in society lotteries must be tied to ticket sales. The Health Lottery thought it had got it right, but the ASA decided it hadn’t.

I don’t know about you, but the ASA’s findings do make me a little less likely to buy a ticket for the Health Lottery, even though I know the proceeds go to good causes. OK, I work in the prize promotions industry, I understand the odds and I’m not a big lottery ticket buyer, but even so I think the Health Lottery has suffered reputational damage as a result of this ruling and as business person that’s not a risk I would want to take.

It’s all about numbers, but it’s the precise words that count and you should read the ASA’s ruling in full here. My point, though, is that whatever type of prize promotion you’re running, whether it’s a lottery or not, a Facebook post or a billboard ad, you can’t exaggerate the chances of winning and you can’t exaggerate the prizes that are on offer. I’m not saying marketing isn’t important – of course it is – and you need to encourage people to participate by making your prize promotion sound attractive, but stray away from the absolute truth and you’ll get in trouble.

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist, an IPM Board Director, and a SCAMbassador for National Trading Standards Scams Team.

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