In order to continue its UK growth, the betting sector must adjust to growing regulatory demands and social pressures. Looking forward, Paul Fox Chief Executive of LeTou details why stakeholders have to broaden their values and agendas for 2019 and beyond. ..
The gambling industry consistently generates headlines in this country. Whether it is television advertisements, sports sponsorships, fixed-odds betting terminals or targeting vulnerable individuals, stories are often very negative and critical of the industry.
NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens recently called for Premier League clubs to do more to tackle gambling addiction and The Labour Party has called for a ban on gambling advertisements during live events.
But what does the future hold for gambling in the UK and are we likely to see any of these changes imposed in the coming months or years?
In May this year, the government slashed the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2 per spin.
It is a decision that I agree will reduce the huge losses incurred by punters on the machines, but it remains to be seen if it will stop these individuals from gambling vast sums elsewhere.
Reports have suggested that the stake reduction could take up to two years to introduce, which is too long to wait now that a decision has been made.
Reducing the maximum stake will undoubtedly have a negative impact on high street bookmakers because many rely on these machines to ensure a steady flow of income.
The government has taken this step because fixed-odds betting terminals account for several gambling addictions across the country. But it is unclear whether these measures will do anything to prevent addicted gamblers from losing money.
It is difficult to know quite what impact the decision will have in the long-term, but if it can prevent addiction among vulnerable individuals at risk then that can only be positive.
Sponsorships in the spotlight
Last year, we were the principal shirt sponsor of Premier League side Swansea City FC. It was a deal that allowed us to become a real household name within the gaming industry both in Asia and across the world.
Of this season’s 20 Premier League clubs, nine are sponsored by betting companies, primarily from outside of the UK, and 17 of the 24 Championship clubs have also engaged in sponsorships with gambling firms.
This has drawn criticism from some campaigners, who have suggested that gambling is becoming normalised for supporters, particularly those that are young.
In July, Italy’s council of ministers approved a blanket ban on gambling advertising in the country that will come into force at the start of 2019.
This has fuelled some discussions that a similar legislation could be introduced in this country, but football and gambling have been inextricably linked for several decades and a ban is unlikely to come into force soon.
The political climate remains very uncertain in the UK and this makes it difficult to predict what the future holds for gambling advertising.
Another criticism of the industry has been the number of advertisements during live TV games, with British viewers exposed to almost 90 minutes of betting adverts during this summer’s World Cup.
In Australia, new legislation was passed earlier this year to ban gambling adverts during live sport between 5am-8.30pm, but could we see a similar law introduced in the UK?
I would argue that gambling has been part of sport since its inception and can add to the enjoyment to bet on the game or the race, but it must be done responsibly.
When I was younger the sponsorship market was dominated by alcohol and cigarette brands, and if it wasn’t for gambling companies, we would see those brands at the forefront again.
It is the best way for these companies to target the main demographic of 18-45-year-old males, but it is important to consider the impact that these adverts could have on those under the age of 18.
Way Forward – providing gambling education and support
Something we feel strongly about at LeTou is that professional sportsmen and women should receive education and support about gambling addiction.
These individuals receive huge disposable income and particularly among younger athletes, it is important that they are taught of the risks at an early age.
The Professional Football Association do some fantastic work with their life skills programme that covers a range of topics including gambling, drugs, mental health, online safety and bullying.
It is also the job of gambling companies in ensuring that the integrity of the sport is not compromised.
Whatever the future holds for the gambling industry in this country, we must continue to work with sports organisations, clubs, federations, and gambling awareness groups to ensure that all sports people are provided with robust support moving forward.
Paul Fox – CEO -LeTou