The gambling industry is receiving regular attention in the press for perceived failures to adequately tackle and address problem gambling. We have seen an increase in fines issued by the UK Gambling Commission and it is expected that further sanctions may be issued in the near future.
The prevalence of gambling advertising in football, and the relationship between the industry and sports more broadly, is therefore coming under increased scrutiny. UK Ministers have committed to reviewing the UK Gambling Act 2005, with potential changes to the regulations surrounding the sponsorship of football shirts, and gambling advertising in sport more generally. Whilst there is still little in the way of concrete detail, restrictions and bans on sponsorship would have a huge impact on the income of clubs. In the Premier League, ten out of twenty clubs have betting firms as main shirt sponsors. The figure increases to about two thirds of the clubs in the Sky Bet Championship.
There are many moving parts to the debate, but it is clear that the industry needs to act and speak with a unified voice to address legitimate problems and concerns. The Gibraltar Betting & Gaming Association (the industry association consisting of licensed online betting and gaming operators in Gibraltar) has prioritised contributing to, and assisting with, research into and analysis of problem gambling, its causes, prevention and cures. The GBGA is working very closely with the University of Gibraltar to establish a Centre of Excellence in Responsible Gambling. The ambition is for the Centre of Excellence to become an industry leader in the research, knowledge and understanding of problem gambling and will provide for research to be fed back into Responsible Gaming policy. For example, its initiatives will include the development of courses on responsible gaming aimed at professionals in the industry. Ultimately, the goal is to drive and contribute towards a safer and more responsible gambling environment for operators and customers.
It will be fascinating to see how the Centre of Excellence develops and the positive impact it could have on the industry.
New sports minister Nigel Huddleston is set to play a leading role in the government’s review of gambling, which will also determine whether football clubs should be permitted to have betting companies sponsoring their shirts.