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Lords committee recommends ban on gambling sports sponsorship

Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace shoots during Premier League match against Burnley (by Hannah McKay/Pool via Getty Images)

A House of Lords committee has today (Thursday) called for a ban on gambling sports sponsorship as part of wide-ranging recommendations to address gambling-related harm.

The House of Lords select committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry has said the liberalisation of gambling by the Gambling Act 2005, the universal adoption of smart phones, and the exploitation of “soft-touch regulation” by gambling operators has created a “perfect storm” of addictive 24/7 gambling.

The committee, chaired by former ITV and BBC chairman Lord Grade, said it expects the government and regulator the Gambling Commission to make changes now. It said many of the report’s 66 recommendations do not need legislation, adding that all of them are “urgent” if consumers are to be protected and lives saved.

Under recommendations addressing advertising, the report states gambling operators should no longer be allowed to advertise on the shirts of sports teams or any other part of their kit. It adds that there should be no gambling advertising in or near any sports grounds or sports venues, including sports programmes.

However, it recommends that these restrictions should not take effect for football clubs below the Premier League before 2023, adding that a similar flexibility should be allowed in the case of other sports, while horse racing or greyhound racing should be excluded.

In February, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters weighed in favour of continued betting company shirt sponsorship of the league’s member clubs. Masters said the League would cooperate with the government’s promised review of the 2005 Gambling Act, but would not support the banning of shirt sponsorships.

Last year, the UK government said it would conduct a full-scale review of gambling regulations to tackle problems caused by excessive gambling. The last major gambling review in the UK was conducted in 2001.

The 10 Premier League clubs with betting company logos branding the shirts during the 2019-20 season are: Aston Villa (W88), Bournemouth (M88), Burnley (LoveBet), Crystal Palace (ManBetX), Everton (SportPesa), Newcastle United (Fun88), Norwich City (Dafabet), Watford (Sportsbet.io), West Ham United (Betway) and Wolves (ManBetX). Of these, all but Betway are primarily Asian or African-facing brands using the league’s popularity in markets outside the UK to gain awareness and credibility.

In further recommendations, the select committee addressed the issue of bet to view. It said: “The social responsibility code of practice must be amended to prohibit licensees from offering bet to view inducements, such as making the watching of a sport conditional on having an account with a gambling operator or placing a bet with an operator.

“The consequence of this will be that the Football Association, any other body with the rights to show football matches, and any body with similar rights in relation to other sports, will no longer be able to sell those rights to licensed gambling operators. We hope that they will see the wisdom of not attempting to sell those rights to unlicensed operators.”

Commenting on the report, Lord Grade said: “Most people who gamble, enjoy it safely. However, gambling-related harm has made the lives of two million people miserable. It leads to hundreds of people each year taking their own lives, leaving families and friends devastated.

“The behaviour of some gambling operators, where vulnerable people were targeted with inducements to continue gambling when the operators knew they could not afford to, shocked the committee.

“Urgent action by the government is required. Lax regulation of the gambling industry must be replaced by a more robust and focussed regime which prioritises the welfare of gamblers ahead of industry profits.”