No more Bookmaker or Gambling-related Advertising on Sports Shirts or Sports Venues, Committee Recommends
As part of the ongoing review of the Gambling Act 2005, a select committee in the House of Lords has recommended that sports betting companies be phased out of English Football. In addition to a restriction on shirt sponsorship, the committee also recommends a stop to all gambling-related advertising in or around sports grounds or venues, and in match-day programmes.
Bookmakers Sports Sponsorship Deals to Cease
The committee, made up of politicians from all political divides, was set up to review the effects of the gambling industry on sports. It is resolute that the ban on shirt sponsorship deals in the Premier League should start immediately, while the deal for clubs in the Championship can be phased out gradually until 2023 because of the impact it could have on Championship clubs. Presently, around 10 Premier League clubs feature logos from sports betting firms on their shirts, while 17 of the 24 clubs in the Championship have sponsorship deals with bookmakers.
While exempting horse and greyhound racing from any restrictions, the 192-page report also recommends that a ban on shirt betting sponsorship deals for all other sports should be in place within 3 years, cautioning that more needs to be done to tackle the risk of gambling-related harm within the society.
Mixed Reactions in Sporting Circles
In its response to the report, the Premier League reiterated its support for stronger governance within gambling while maintaining that individual clubs would have to decide on their own whether they want to have sponsorship deals with betting companies or not. In a previous statement, Richard Masters, the Premier League CEO, had maintained that there was no apparent connection between clubs that had sponsorship deals with gambling companies and the number of people susceptible to betting.
The EFL (English Football League) on its part, disagreed with the committee’s recommendation, stating that the gambling sector contributes £40 million to the EFL each season, and underscoring the importance of this funding to clubs, particularly with the current financial impact occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic. It emphasized that the league sees more benefits in a partnership with betting companies to prevent gambling harm than placing a ban on sports sponsorship deals.
In coming up with the recommendations in its report, the committee was driven by the attitude of some gambling operators who targeted vulnerable people through “inducements to continue gambling when the operators knew they could not afford to”, thereby encouraging gambling-related harm instead of working to avert it.
According to the Select Committee, about 2 million people are affected by gambling harm, with some cases ending in suicide and families and friends left devastated. The members recommend that the gambling industry’s approach to regulation prioritizing the welfare of gamblers should be more robust as compared to its drive for operators’ profits.
On the back of the Public Accounts Committee’s criticism of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, and the Gambling Commission, for their inability to tackle problem gambling in a measured and proactive way, the select committee’s report highlights some specific measures needed to tackle problem gambling. These are, testing new games against a sequence of harm indicators, getting a balance in the speed of play and spin, coming up with new ways for operators to determine their customers’ affordability, and setting up a statutory independent Gambling Ombudsman Service, akin to the Financial Services Ombudsman.