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UK LEGAL COMMENT


product, only 6% had gambled online (other than on the National Lottery website). Of the 11- to 16-year-olds who had seen a gambling advert or sponsorship, 7% said that had prompted them to spend money on gambling when they were not otherwise planning to. However, if children are being encouraged to place online sports bets with the operators advertising on their team’s kits, it appears to be to a reasonably limited extent, given that the 6% of 11- to 16-year-olds who had gambled online includes those who gambled on online casinos, bingo and society lotteries as well as those who had bet on sports. There is a lack of evidence on the extent to which the


shirts with gambling logos on them. To construe that children may be encouraged to gamble if this activity is being promoted by their idols in not a great leap. Further, increasing the exposure of gambling products in the context of an exciting sporting event creates associations in people’s minds, that some think could lead to greater instances of problem gambling. Those arguments appeal to our desire to protect our


children, the vulnerable in society and what some would term the sanctity of sport. The decision by some of the UK’s largest gambling operators to no longer place their logos on sports kit is understandable. But before taking the signifi cant step of banning sports teams from accepting gambling-related sponsorships, it would seem worthwhile to analyse whether shirt sponsorship is, in fact, increasing problem gambling and underage gambling. The fact that gambling logos already cannot appear on


replica kits designed for children (per the gambling industry code for socially responsible advertising) or on kits of teams comprising players all under the age of 18 (per the rules of the FA) goes some way to addressing concerns relating to children being exposed to gambling adverts. However, there is no doubt that the many young fans of teams such as Everton and Aston Villa will nevertheless be exposed to the logos on a regular if not daily basis. It is worth considering the extent to which children are gambling and what form their gambling takes. According to the Gambling Commission’s latest “Young People & Gambling” report, released in October 2019, 36% of 11- to 16-year-olds gambled with their own money during the past year. However breaking down that fi gure by gambling


11- to 16-year-olds who gamble are infl uenced to do so by gambling logos on sports kit and, when they are, the level of harm caused to them. It would be informative to understand how rates of gambling in this age group vary depending on the number of football matches watched, or better still by which team the child supports and whether or not it has a gambling sponsor. It is important that any policy decision in this area is based on robust research, rather than politics or media sentiment. As well as analysing whether a ban will be effective in


achieving the aims of protecting children and vulnerable adults, proper consideration must surely also be given to whether its negative effect on channelisation might outweigh any benefi ts. Unfortunately, political and public sentiment are likely to


move faster than academic research. Whilst the Government will be preoccupied for the remainder of this year with issues relating to Covid-19 and Brexit, it is likely that gambling will rise towards the top of the agenda in 2021. The promised review of the Gambling Act will almost certainly lead to further restrictions on advertising with sports sponsorship being the biggest target, so we could see restrictions coming into effect before the start of the 21/22 football season, but more likely a year or two after that. It is possible that the gambling industry (led by the


Betting and Gaming Council (BGC)) will come together and agree restrictions, as was the case with the whistle to whistle ban. But the key players in the industry are far from alignment on this issue and the BGC’s current position is that betting “provides sport with the vital funding it needs”. Virtual advertising, overlaid onto items such as perimeter advertising boards, may at least enable sponsorships to continue to some extent, specifi cally targeting audiences in jurisdictions where they remain permissible. To prepare for future restrictions, gambling operators and sports teams alike should ensure the wording of their sponsorship agreements provide for all possibilities.


Melanie is a gambling regulatory lawyer with 13 years’ experience in the sector. Melanie advises on all aspects of gambling law including licence applications, compliance, advertising, licence reviews and changes of control. She has acted for a wide range of gambling operators including major online and land-based bookmakers and casinos, B2B game and software suppliers and start-ups. She also frequently advises operators of raffl es, prize competitions, free draws and social gaming products. Melanie has a particular interest in the use of new technology for gambling products and novel product ideas.


AUGUST 2020 29


Picture: West Ham club website


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