When Annette Obrestad of Norway won the 2007 World Series of Poker Europe Main Event, she went from online poker sensation to a player who clearly demonstrated her ability to play impressive live poker as well. The 18-year old player, who competed for years online as “Annette_15,” was almost immediately signed to Betfair Poker, the official sponsor of the WSOPE, as its star sponsored pro.
Obrestad has since traveled the global tournament circuit representing Betfair and gained a great deal of publicity for herself and the site, especially considering that she didn’t turn 21-years old until late summer 2009 and wasn’t able to compete in any WSOP events in the United States thus far. But her benefit to Betfair may have just been squashed by Great Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
Betfair displayed photos of Obrestad in its online advertisements, typically sent to Betfair-registered players or those enrolled on a similar gambling site, but recently someone filed a complaint with the ASA about an ad that featured her photo and her screen name of “Annette_15.” The gist of the objection was that the advertisement of a screen name that insinuated that her age was 15, which is against the law, might encourage underage people to gamble.
The response from Betfair was swift. A company representative noted that all who received the advertisement were confirmed to be of legal gambling age, and the site also employs several measures to prevent underage users from registering or gambling on its site. Betfair said that it used Obrestad because of her WSOPE title and emphasized that she was an adult, meaning she was outside the realm of penalty from the ASA.
However, the ASA’s response said, “While we accepted the ad had not been deliberately targeted at young people in its distribution, we also noted the code stated that marketing communications should not be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture… Because Ms. Obrestad was 20 years old and because, as a professional poker player, she played a significant role in gambling in the ad, we concluded the ad breached the provisions of the code.” The organization said the ads were irresponsible and ordered that Betfair refrain from using anyone under 25 years of age in any future advertisements.
Betfair subsequently publicly apologized for the error. But where that leaves their star player remains to be seen. Rumors have swirled throughout the 2009 WSOPE that Obrestad had been approached by Full Tilt Poker with a sponsorship offer, though no confirmation has been obtained of any such offer or any speculation that Betfair will terminate its current deal with Obrestad.