High stakes: UK Betting firms fearing backlash over football ads plot pre-emptive strike

betting ads on tv

By Paul Nicholson

October 8 – Growing fears within the UK betting business of a hardline approach to regulating how bookmakers market themselves has prompted one leading bookmaker to put in a pre-emptive strike and call for an industry-imposed ban on TV ads before the 9pm watershed.

Bookmaker ads and promotions are dominating in English football and the premier League in particular. Nine of the Premier League’s 20 clubs have bookmakers as their main shirt sponsors, while live broadcasts have online bookmaker promotions in every break, usually offering special odds for the next passage of play.

The volume of betting ads has prompted widespread concern across the UK with the Labour party even promising a “whistle to whistle” ban on gambling ads for televised football games if it wins the next election.

The Gambling Commission warned last week of a “gathering storm” and told betting operators they should “step up and own” the problem.

Kenny Alexander, chief executive of Ladbrokes and Coral owner GVC, told City A.M. that the number of ads had got “out of hand” and called for the industry to tighten its own regulation.

“Most people in the gambling industry think there are far too many ads. Many of them are too aggressive, particularly for young people who are a few years away from being able to gamble. It’s not responsible.”

“We should make the changes collaboratively with the rest of the industry, which might be difficult, and ultimately it’s up to the government to decide if they want to legislate or not,” he said.

Alexander will make a formal presentation of his proposals at a parliamentary reception tomorrow where he will also commit to a research programme, a community programme to support aspiring athletes and a £2 million community fund.

Alexander is looking to avert a storm of regulation that is already in the verge of happening in Italy where the so-called ‘Dignity Decree’ is scheduled to kick in January 1. The ruling will put a ban on all gambling advertising, including sponsorship or promotional deals with gambling companies.

Clubs with betting and gaming company sponsorships already in place will be able to fulfil the term of their contracts, according to the proposal, but more than half Serie A clubs hold important sponsorship deals with betting and gaming companies. The revenue loss to Italian clubs has been estimated at being €120 million if the decree is enforced.

English clubs will be hoping that the betting industry’s proposal will be well received by government regulators. The aggregated annual value of shirt sponsorship for the nine clubs with betting firms as main sponsors is about reckoned to be £51.1 million. Clubs would find it hard to replace those sponsorships immediately at that value.

Premier League clubs with betting company shirt sponsors are: Bournemouth (M88), Burnley (Laba360), Crystal Palace (ManBetX), Everton (SportPesa), Fulham (Dafabet), Huddersfield (Ope Sports), Newcastle United (Fun88), West Ham United (BetWay) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (W88).

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