November to December 2020 in Review: Frantic conclusion sees betting prepared for another year under the spotlight

Betting leadership was provided no time to reflect on the events of an unpredictable year, as November and December developments placed the industry’s future on the line…

SBC – Betting shakes off its seasonal slumber as UK government triggers long-awaited gambling review…  

Betting faces an uncertain end of year close, as country-by-country European governments reviewed their national lockdown policies seeking to minimise the spread of the coronavirus during the winter months.

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) sought a ‘government guarantee to keep UK bookmakers open, as casino venues were forced to close across England following the government’s new tiered guidelines policy.

Covid aside, frantic last-minute political trading proved a winner for bookmakers as the US 2020 Presidential Election broke all existing wagering records. Monitoring US 2020 developments, Smarkets Head of Political Markets Sarbjit Bakhshi described the market to SBC as betting’s ‘Billon Dollar Baby’.

Canada delivered a further gift, as ‘Bill C-218 – The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act passed through the Ottawa Commons uncontested. A reform of Canadian gambling had been supported by the province of Ontario, which formally sanctioned the launch of an ‘independent igaming regime as part of its 2021 budget.

Progress in North America was welcome, as betting faced the familiar scenario of further market restrictions across Europe. Spain’s government formally approved the long-awaited Royal Decree on Advertising into federal law, implementing Europe’s toughest advertising code for gambling products and services.

Finalising a transformative year re-entering the FTSE100, GVC Holdings declared the launch of its new ‘corporate charter’ as the company re-branded its corporate identity to Entain Plc.

Leading GVC’s transformation to Entain, CEO Shay Segev signalled a new era for the FTSE online gambling group in which it would utilise its proprietary built ‘Advanced Responsibility & Care (ARC) programme to lead industry in safer gambling and customer care disciplines.

As the sector begun to wind down for a much-needed Christmas break, DCMS finally pulled the trigger on its pledged review of the 2005 Gambling Act, awakening the sector from any seasonal slumber.

Ushering the review’s ‘consultation phase’, DCMS secretary Oliver Dowden underlined that the department would undertake the biggest wholesale review of UK gambling since the ‘Blair era’. The re-wiring of UK gambling will see DCMS prioritise consumer safeguards, advertising standards, online protections and the role of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) as the governing body of the gambling sector.

Betting leadership welcomed the government’s review, accepting that come 2021 the industry will face another year in the political spotlight…

Insider Sports – All eyes focused on a critical 2021 comeback…

The most significant development towards the end of 2020 was the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s decision to review the 2005 Gambling Act. This reform, which was a key pledge made by Boris Johnson in his 2019 election manifesto, will bring the sponsorship of professional sports clubs by gambling companies into the spotlight.

Elsewhere, British jockey Hollie Doyle made history in November by becoming the first jockey to receive the Sunday Times’ prestigious ‘Sportswoman of the Year Award’ in its 33 year history. She was presented with the accolade a month after becoming the first woman to win a Champions Day race at Royal Ascot, and the rising star looks set to become the face of global horse racing.

Much of the focus this winter has been on the Tokyo Olympics, which had been postponed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was made in December to introduce a range of new sports to its roster, including surfing, skateboarding and sports climbing. Most notably, breakdancing, known as ‘breaking,’ will debut at the 2024 Paris Olympics following a successful trial at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Argentina.

Moreover, it was also revealed that the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics would cost organisers around 200 billion yen, and reports from Japan suggested a further 100 billion yen would be needed to maintain anti-Covid measures during the tournament. Some economic experts, such as University of Oxford academic Bert Flybjerg, estimated that the bill for the Tokyo Olympics currently stands at £15.84 billion, making it the most expensive Olympic games on record.

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