Sports betting firms should be phased out of English football, a Select Committee within the House of Lords recommends. Besides shirt sponsorship restrictions, the committee also states that there should be no gambling-related advertising in or near sports grounds or venues, including match-day programmes.
Phase Bookmakers Out of Sports
The cross-party committee set up with the purpose to review the impact of the gambling industry is adamant that for Premier League clubs the shirt sponsorship deals ban should be with immediate effect, outlining such a measure may have a bigger impact on the smaller clubs from the Championship, allowing them to phase such deals out by 2023. Currently, half of the Premier League clubs have sports betting companies’ logos on their shirts, while in the Championship 17 out 24 are sponsored by bookmakers.
The 192-pages long report that is part of the ongoing Gambling Act 2005 review also recommends all other sports to end shirt betting sponsorship deals within 3 years, warning much more needs to be done to prevent the risk of gambling-related harm in the society. The committee, however, states that horse and greyhound racing should be exempt from these restrictions.
Mixed Reactions Among the Leagues
The Premier League responded to the report, outlining it will be willing to participate, re-iterating its resolve for stronger governance for gambling, but ultimately it is up to every individual club to decide whether it wants to have such partnership deals with betting companies. Premier League CEO Richard Masters previously pointed out there was no obvious correlation between clubs with gambling sponsors and the number of people vulnerable from betting.
The English Football League (EFL) disagreed with the recommendation from the committee report, outlining the £40 million contribution the gambling sector has in a season, emphasizing on the importance of this funding for the clubs, especially with the financial impact from the health crisis. The league will see more benefit to collaboration with the betting companies for gambling harm prevention, rather than imposing a ban on sponsorship deals.
It is the behavior of some gambling operators that motivated the committee come up with the recommendations in the report. Some of them targeted vulnerable people with “inducements to continue gambling when the operators knew they could not afford to”, contributing to the gambling-related harm rather than working to prevent it.
The Select Committee pointed out gambling harm affected the lives of 2 million people, worst case scenarios ending with suicides leaving families and friends devastated. The members recommend the industry should have more robust approach to regulation prioritizing the welfare of gamblers instead of operators’ profits.
The report from the committee comes up with specific measures to tackle the issue of problem gambling, including testing new games against a series of harm indicators, the equalisation of speed of play and spin, new approach for operators regarding their clients’ affordability, as well as the creation of statutory independent Gambling Ombudsman Service, much like the one for the financial services.
Recently, the Public Accounts Committee criticized the Gambling Commission and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport for their failure to deal with problem gambling in a proactive and measured way.