Gambling Sponsorship Ban in UK Sports All but Guaranteed in Updated Laws

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Gambling Sponsorship Ban in UK Sports All but Guaranteed in Updated Laws

While the English Premier League (EPL) may feel that gambling sponsorships are an intrinsic part of the organization, it may have no choice but to drop them. The UK’s white paper detailing the country’s updated gambling laws reportedly contains a ban on shirt sponsorships.

West Ham United
West Ham United
The EPL’s West Ham United soccer team celebrates a goal. One of several teams to have sports betting sponsorships, these may no longer be a part of the English sports landscape. (Image: Getty Images)

Two years ago, EPL CEO Richard Masters expected to be able to garner support for the belief that sports and sports betting sponsorships belonged together. His position is losing ground, however, according to a report by BBC Sport. The sports media outlet asserts that the UK’s white paper on gambling reform may include a gambling shirt sponsorship ban.

Out of the 20 teams in the EPL, 10 have sponsorship arrangements with gaming entities. For the past two years, certain members of parliament, as well as responsible gambling lobbyists, have campaigned for a separation of the two.

This plan apparently received a lot of support from soccer fans, if the results from a 2020 poll are accurate. It found that 44% of respondents favored the ban.

White Paper Closer to Release

BBC Sport cites unidentified sources with knowledge of the white paper that will introduce gambling reform to the country. The document is the result of efforts involving the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), parliamentarians, regulators and others.

The DCMS will present the white paper “in the coming weeks.” It will be “the most comprehensive review of gambling laws in 15 years to make sure they are fit for the digital age,” according to the agency.

Some want the ban to cover not only the EPL, but the English Football League (EFL) and others. If it holds up and becomes law, Championship League organizations might receive a grace period to manage the transition.

Neither the EPL nor the EFL is completely opposed to the idea of greater sponsorship controls. They are, however, against the idea of a complete ban. The EPL previously asserted that a “self-regulatory approach” could be advantageous. Still, it has been receiving pressure from the government to cut ties with gambling firms.

This would allow the league to implement policies that conform to the political sentiment. At the same time, though, it would give clubs the ability to generate revenue from the sources that may benefit them the most.

Some people still believe the shirt sponsorship ban doesn’t go far enough. They want a complete ban on sports gambling sponsorships in sports. They argue that sports betting is harmful and, therefore, should be blocked. At the same time, they don’t see any issue with other products, such as alcohol, that have also been proven harmful.

Too Much Regulation More Harmful

Overregulating the gambling industry will be substantially more harmful than not regulating it at all. There is already evidence that shows that overregulation forces consumers to use illicit, unlicensed gambling and betting platforms when regulators become too strict. The UK is potentially heading down the same path.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has already acknowledged that the problem gambling rate in the country is falling. A survey at the end of April determined that only 0.2% of the gambling population would classify as being part of a “problem gambling” group.

The 0.2% is lower than the level from a year ago. This indicates that current controls and industry efforts are enough to regulate the industry.

In addition, overregulation will have an economic impact on the UK. A gambling sponsorship ban would lead to club losses of around £40 million (US$50.21 million) a year, according to the EFL. That money isn’t entirely net income for the clubs, either. Some of it goes back into the communities through support programs, education and civic contributions.

In addition to the gambling sponsorship ban, there are calls to introduce a flat-rate fee the operators must pay to support problem gambling initiatives. This is in addition to the millions of dollars they already pay each year through voluntary programs.

Should the UK decide to include that fee, casinos will suffer. The Betting and Gaming Council predicts that as many as a third of the land-based casinos may have to close. This would leave 3,000 people without work. Now, more than ever, the UK isn’t in a position to begin losing millions of dollars and put thousands of people on the street.

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