Martin Lycka: What Would Pelé Do?

In the fifth of a series of columns on international gambling legislation, GVC Holdings Director of Regulatory Affairs Martin Lycka wonders what might Pelé and his footballing band of brothers think about Brazilian sports betting regulation.

In an exclusive fictitious interview, we have asked Brazil’s all-time leading goal scorers for their views on the regulatory works the Brazilian government has undertaken so far and which direction the future regulation should take. 5 World Cups, 33 World Cup goals, 200 goals for Brazil as well as countless trophies and accolades among them, Pelé, Ronaldo Fenomeno and Neymar Jr. are without a shadow of a doubt three of the brightest stars on the Brazilian football skies.

Interviewer: “It is an absolute honour to have you all here, gentlemen. Thanks for accepting the invitation and sharing your views on the sports betting regulation your home country is in the throes of drafting.”

Ronaldo Fenomeno: “I thought you would only invite World Cup winners; never mind.”

Neymar Jr. is sulking.

Pelé: “As the elder statesman in the room, I would like to ask you two, young bucks, to concentrate on the task, please.” 

Interviewer: “You would be aware of the recent efforts of the Brazilian government to regulate and license sports betting. What is your take on the regulation?” 

Pelé: “Definitely a step in the right direction. The new regulation will create a sound legal framework for the provision of sports betting services in Brazil. As a former Minister of Sport, I’m also hopeful that it will contribute towards prevention of some of the socials ills that have affected Brazilian football and that it will generate additional funds for all our sports clubs.” 

Ronaldo Fenomeno: “I’m more of a poker player myself but have been following the latest debate with a lot of interest. Brazil is a country of 210 million people who live and breathe football. The market has a huge potential, a lot of customer pools to tap into. At the same time, I believe that robust responsible gambling rules are an absolute must.”

Neymar Jr.: “I have tried my hand at poker as well; during my time with Barcelona, I even shot a couple of commercials with that bloke who used to play for the “other” Spanish club. Having been through that experience, I would suggest that the future regulation will need to put in place reasonable rules for gambling related advertising.” 

Interviewer: You all have been praised for producing magic on the football pitch. Is there in your view any magical model or pattern you would invite the Brazilian government to follow when regulating? A set of rules that would allow it to tick all the regulatory boxes, in particular in terms of consumer protection and generating tax revenue?

Neymar Jr.: “I have played my football in France for some time now, well at least every now and then … I am told that the French regulatory model has been rather failing, so if I got a chance to do it, I would advise my government to steer clear of a combination of painstakingly high turnover tax and way too onerous technical requirements.” 

Ronaldo Fenomeno: “I used to play in Italy and Spain and also happen to co-own a football club in the latter these days. My friend, Junior here, is absolutely right in saying that advertising rules need to be sensible because advertising is inter alia one of the key channels for delivery of responsible gambling messages. Italy style ban or some of the mooted Spain like restrictions would not do the trick; quite on the contrary, they would push some of the existing play deeper into the underground.”  

Pelé: “I spent a few years of my footballing life in America; the New York Cosmos remain very close to my heart. The US experience since the last year’s Supreme Court judgment has been quite a ride; a lot of big TV stations and other highly reputable businesses have been progressively getting involved, which in my view shows that online gambling, despite being occasionally perceived as something intangible, something that is hard to grasp, can be successfully regulated and create another firm connection between the sports business and its fans.” 

Interviewer: “These are all very valuable and pertinent views. I would also suggest that smooth transition in the new regulatory regime will be vital for its ultimate success. Would you agree with me?” 

Pelé: “Your interview request has prompted me to do some research in this area. It would indeed appear from what I’ve read that transitioning existing providers into the new regulation is indispensable for its success, together with the other criteria my football brothers and I have set out over the course of this interview. Otherwise, there would be a risk that some of the loyal Cruzeiro, Palmeiras or Santos fans end up in the clutches of black market operators who respect no rules at all.”

Interviewer: “Thank you for the very illuminating interview, gentlemen. We hear you and will hope that the Brazilian government will hear you as well.”


Martin Lycka is Director of Regulatory Affairs at GVC Group. Before that he spent nearly ten years at Paddy Power Betfair working on international markets. Views expressed are personal and not necessarily those of GVC Group.

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