Labour Party pledges to tackle ‘hidden epidemic’ of addiction and protect children from early exposure to gambling
Football clubs will be banned from signing shirt sponsorship deals with betting companies under a Labour government, as the party pledges to tackle a “hidden epidemic” of addiction and protect children from early exposure to gambling.
The policy, unveiled by deputy leader Tom Watson, is understood to be the first of a series of proposals to curb the power of gambling firms, ramping up pressure on the government ahead of its own review of the industry.
Watson, who is also the shadow minister for digital, culture media and sport, said a Labour government would encourage the Football Association to implement its own ban but was prepared to legislate if necessary.
“Football has to play its part in tackling Britain’s hidden epidemic of gambling addiction,” he said.
“Shirt sponsorship sends out a message that football clubs don’t take problem gambling among their own fans seriously enough. It puts gambling brands in front of fans of all ages, not just at matches but on broadcasts and highlights packages on both commercial television and the BBC.”
Nine of the 20 Premier League football clubs – including Newcastle, West Ham and Everton – have shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies, worth a combined £47.3m this season alone.
A further 16 clubs in England’s second and third tiers have similar deals, in many cases with firms that do relatively little business in the UK but are using the global popularity of the Premier League to woo customers in Asia and elsewhere.
Football Association rules already prohibit youth teams from wearing clothing that displays products considered “detrimental to the welfare, health or general interests of young persons” – including gambling. Labour sources pointed out that the FA’s own logic should extend to the millions of children who watch football. Last month the FA announced it was ending its sponsorship deals with betting companies and terminated a contract with Ladbrokes worth about £4m a year.
Watson also drew a comparison with laws passed in 2005 to stop cigarette firms sponsoring sport.
“Just as tobacco companies were banned from sponsoring sporting events and putting their logos on branded goods because of the harm smoking can cause,” he said, “it’s right that we recognise the harm problem gambling does and take gambling logos off football shirts.”
Watson said figures from industry watchdog the Gambling Commission, which last month indicated a rise in the number of problem gamblers to 430,000, meant football should distance itself from the industry.
“With new evidence showing gambling addiction rising, at huge cost to individuals and their families, to society and to the taxpayer, the clubs should follow the FA’s lead,” he said.
Recent research by academics at Goldsmiths, University of London, found that gambling is now so inextricably linked to football that television watchers cannot avoid industry branding, even if they don’t watch commercial TV. In a study of three episodes of the BBC’s flagship football highlights programme Match of the Day, researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London found that gambling logos or branding appeared on screen for between 71% and 89% of the show’s running time.
Despite the fact that Sky broadcasts adverts, the research found that in some cases the percentage of screen time enjoyed by gambling firms during a live football broadcast was as low as 68%. This figure was for a game between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, with neither team sponsored by a betting firm. Another game, between West Ham and Liverpool, featured some form of gambling advert for 88% of the programme.
Professor Rebecca Cassidy said the similarity between Match of the Day and Sky was partly down to the fact that live games feature long periods of pre- and post-match analysis during which gambling logos do not appear.
By contrast, highlights shows tend to feature close-up shots showing advertising billboards in and shirts, while many post-match interviews are conducted in front of hoardings festooned with company logos.
“What surprised us when we looked at a small sample of live football matches and highlights was the sheer quantity and the fact that the BBC was not a ‘safe space’,” said Cassidy. “Gambling advertising has become part of the fabric of our stadiums and whether you’re watching highlights on the BBC or live matches on Sky you will be exposed to large amounts of it.”
She pointed to the harsher regime in Australia, where gambling adverts were recently banned during sports events shown before the watershed.
The DCMS is due to publish a report in early November detailing the government’s proposals on gambling advertising and controversial fixed-odds betting terminals.
Tracey Crouch, the minister for sport, is understood to be keen to implement tough measures on FOBTs in particular, but is facing opposition from the Treasury, which is mindful of the impact of any new restrictions on tax payments from gambling firms.
George Miller (Gyorgy Molnar) started his career in content marketing and has started working as an Editor/Content Manager for our company in 2016. George has acquired many experiences when it comes to interviews and newsworthy content becoming Head of Content in 2017. He is responsible for the news being shared on multiple websites that are part of the European Gaming Media Network.
James Ashton from Find My UK Casino says that affiliates and operators must be responsible in their approach to engaging players over the coming months
As an online casino affiliate that prioritises responsibility and compliance above all else, I was saddened to receive emails from several of our operator partners regarding a small number of publishers that have looked to leverage the on-going global crisis to their advantage.
These emails are reminding affiliates of the terms and conditions which they agreed to when partnering with the operator, most notably that all marketing activity undertaken must be responsible and compliant at all times.
For those that are not, they risk having their accounts terminated with immediate effect. And rightly so. Professional online casino affiliates do not need to rely on a global crisis to drive traffic to their sites – if anything, they should be taking additional steps to protect their players.
Since the UK lockdown came into force last week, we have seen traffic numbers increase. This, of course, is to be expected as more people are now working from home or not working but being required to stay at home.
This is good for us and other affiliates, and equally positive for our operator partners. But we all have to take a responsible approach and ensure that we go above and beyond to provide players with the information they need to make an informed decision about if and where to play.
This includes ensuring bonus terms and conditions – significant and full – are correctly displayed while also creating explainers about wagering requirements, the tools available to help keep in control of their play and how to ensure they play at licensed and reputable brands.
We are prioritising pages such as these over high-volume ranking pages that are proven to drive players from the SERPs to our pages and ultimately to the online casino brands we recommended. As a result, we have seen retuning site visitors increase over the past two weeks.
One of the most effective ways online casino affiliates can protect players at a time when site traffic and demand is likely to increase – at least over the coming weeks and months – is to only work with the best online casino brands out there.
These are not necessarily the most established brands or those that hold multiple licences, but those that go the extra mile to educate players about responsible gambling and provide them with additional features to manage their play.
This is irresponsible on many levels, but amid the current climate is putting the most vulnerable at greater risk than ever before.
We also work very closely with our operator partners to ensure that all the content we create around their brand(s) is 100% compliant, and also seek feedback on other aspects of our site to ensure we are doing everything we can to meet the highest possible standards.
This is always important but particularly right now as people find themselves with more time on their hands but perhaps with less disposable income to spend. That’s not to say they shouldn’t play online casino, but affiliates and operators must do all they can to ensure they play responsibly.
There is clearly an opportunity to target the growing number of people being confined to their homes, but affiliates and operators must do the right thing and ensure they do not take advantage of the situation and use is to their advantage.
Affiliates and operators should be investing time and resources into helping players enjoy online casino play if that is how they want to spend their time and money, but in a way that is healthy and within their means both personally and financially.
So although I was sadden to receive emails from operators stating that affiliates should not be leveraging the current global crisis and using it to their advantage, I was encourage to see that they had taken serious steps to identify, prevent and punish those that are.
That being said, it is really down to affiliates to do the right thing in the first place and it seems that despite the tremendous efforts being made by regulators, watchdogs, operators and publishers, a small minority continue to act irresponsibly, doing untold damage to the rest of the sector.
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In a historic shake up of the sporting calendar not seen since the Second World War, all major sporting events have been put on hold indefinitely.
With markets in turmoil, and traffic to online bookmakers and affiliate sites alike taking a significant hit, there is a lot at stake. Sporting events will eventually return, although it’s unclear exactly as to when.
It means that the iGaming community as whole needs to look to viable alternatives, although some feel that the present predicament actually provides opportunity.
“We’re aiming to turn this unique situation into one where we can adapt, learn, and hopefully come out of the other side in a much stronger position”, says Eskil Kvarnström, CEO of Leadstar Media.
Viable alternatives to sports betting
“We’re quite lucky in the fact that we’ve always set out to hold a varied portfolio of products that set their focus across sports betting, online casino and a number of international markets,” says Kvarnström.
Indeed that is the challenge for many betting affiliates and online bookmakers alike. How they act and react now could leave a pivotal mark in the immediate and distant future alike.
“One of the areas where we’re already seeing a significant upturn is in the realm of virtual sports, and that’s exactly where we’re setting part of our focus for the time being. It’s providing us with a great opportunity to improve in fields that might before have gone overlooked.”
A flagship product of Leadstar Media, BookiesBonuses.com, aims to provide the best overview of UK bookmakers for its users based in the British Isles, but also further afield.
“While Bookies Bonuses is primarily geared towards providing a great deal of information on online bookmakers, it is one of our sites where sports betting takes centre stage, although online casino does play an ancillary role in what it has to offer.”
It’s important to be reactive
Many sports betting sites are already seeking to develop their virtual sports betting products. The likes of Bet365, Betway and Coral have arguably the most advanced virtual sports packages on the market at present, while the BetVictor sign up offer has recently been updated to highlight its availability to players interested in virtual sports.
“We’re actually surprised that more online bookmakers aren’t yet seeking to promote their virtual sports packages given that we already know many of the major football leagues in Europe in particular are going to be out of action for at least another month or so. But that’s where we come in”, states Kvarnström.
The role of the affiliate
“In many respects the virtual sports market goes overlooked by many players who are interested in sports betting, simply because there is a constant availability of real-life events taking place all over the world at any given time.”
“We see our role at Leadstar Media not only to provide the best products for the consumer, but in being a key conduit of disseminating valuable information on distinctive areas of the sports betting and online gambling sector. It’s not just about what is on offer, but also how particular aspects of the market like bonuses and deposits methods fundamentally work in practice, and providing that information accordingly,” says Kvarnström.
“In many respects the virtual sports market is an untapped resource ready for development, especially in such unique times. Our company has a lot of experience in nascent markets across the world, such as Africa and India, so we feel confident we can inform and advertise to our users everything that virtual sports have to offer”.
In such unique and uncertain times, it certainly provides food for thought in how the iGaming sector as a whole will look to react, adapt and develop, and more importantly, what the landscape will look like when we come out of this period on the other side.