Several UK football clubs are facing mounting pressure over the use of gambling ads on social media.
In a letter to eleven football clubs from the Premier League, English Football League, and Scottish Premiership, a group of former gambling addicts have warned the clubs of the danger of advertising gambling websites through their social media accounts.
As reported by CasinoBeats, the letter, which has earned backing from MPs Iain Duncan Smith and Carolyn Harris, informed the clubs about how social media promotion of gambling sites can cause distress for many addicts and may encourage them to gamble.
The letter reads: “It is difficult for those of us who are addicted or in recovery to be exposed to such advertising. It’s painful to see brands associated with unimaginable harm when doing something as simple as checking their team’s starting line-up on Twitter.
“We hope that you will take this request seriously and we look forward to seeing your social media channels free of direct gambling promotion soon.”
Some of the clubs to receive the letter include Leicester City, Birmingham City, Manchester City, Coventry City, Newcastle United, Burnley, Arsenal, Celtic, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, and Watford.
A spokesperson for Arsenal responded to the letter by saying: “Our partnership with SportsBet is founded on a joint commitment to promote safe and responsible gambling.
“We are pleased to partner with an industry-leading organisation that takes its social and regulatory responsibility extremely seriously. We would encourage anyone struggling with gambling to seek confidential and professional support at www.gamstop.co.uk.”
The letter comes as the sports industry has come under fire for its sponsorships with gambling firms. Sponsorships which may be banned as part of the UK Government’s ongoing review of the Gambling Act 2005, with sources close to Downing Street claiming that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his cabinet are in favour of the ban and several major reforms.
As the gambling industry is on the cusp of new tighter regulatory rules as a result of the Gambling Act 2005 review, several gambling companies in the UK have reportedly proposed an industry-wide ban on high-risk consumers by using their data to identify potential addicts.
First reported by the Dail Mail on Monday (February 8), the article claims that several betting firms have made the proposal in order to avoid a ban or any restrictions on sports sponsorships.
The alleged proposal comes as Kindred Group, the operator behind Unibet, 32Red, and other brands, has released a report revealing that, while 96% of its revenue comes from “safe” gamblers, a further 4% stems from high-risk players.
Kindred Group UK General Manager Neil Banbury said in a statement: “As a single operator, you can just push the problem to another operator, as a licensed industry that’s where we have to work together to make sure we do look after the customers collectively as an industry and prevent the possibility of leakage to sites that aren’t regulated.”
Banbury’s comments refer to the ongoing debate between the gambling industry and the UK Gambling Commission over the dangers of over-regulation. The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) and several gambling firms like William Hill have warned of the dangers, stating that over-regulation could push British players to non-licensed gambling websites.
However, the UK Gambling Commission has rebutted the warnings, claiming that they are “exaggerated” and that PwC’s initial report over the dangers of the gambling black market was “not consistent” and failed to distinguish between real consumers using illegal black market sites and bots.
Meanwhile, Conservative MP Laurence Robertson, a Parliamentary adviser to the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), has issued a warning to the UK Gambling Commission about the “devastating impact” of affordability checks on the sports industry.
The UK Gambling Commission earlier launched a consultation on new affordability checks for betting sites which, as reported by SBC News, could require operators to conduct affordability checks after a consumer has experienced a monthly loss of £100.
Speaking about the proposed affordability checks, Robertson has said that British racing would not survive as it currently receives £350 million a year from the gambling industry. His statement reads:
“Any reduction in this income as a result of people being diverted to the black market, or being put off betting altogether, as a result of over-stringent measures being taken would be disastrous for the sport.
“Any sport must also avoid unintended consequences should customers refuse – quite reasonably – to provide their private financial data to operators. While the unintended consequences may manifest in the form of a devastating impact on sport, such as racing, another is generating consumer harm through driving customers to sites which will not make these onerous requests upon them.”
Continuing the statement, Robertson addresses the debate surrounding the black market and warns that over-regulation could push people towards dangerous sites: “Once those customers leave the regulated market, both the regulated industry and the Commission lose the opportunity to protect those customers. The risk posed by this should not be understated.
“Therefore, I ask that the Commission works with the industry to establish a risk-based approach which protects customers and avoids arbitrary limits which may drive a range of unintended consequences that could ultimately increase problem gambling.”
Robertson’s concerns have been echoed by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) who have criticised the affordability check proposals, stating that the industry could lose up to £60 million in media rights.