Sports told to get legal advice for promoting unlicensed operators

Dafabet has UK licence – but may not have needed one to become Aston Villa’s sponsor

The UK Gambling Commission has advised all sporting clubs to get ‘their own legal advice’ if they want to take sponsorship or advertising money from non-licensed operators. Last week the regulator wrote to sports governing bodies to inform them that non-licensed brands can only promote themselves if they block UK customers and make it clear that their gambling services are not available to UK customers. This in itself is an apparent turnaround in advice from the Commission which hitherto had maintained that operators needed a UK licence to advertise in the UK.

In a statement clarifying the issue, the Commission said: “Our letter to sports governing bodies was aimed at providing guidance to those bodies and their members in the context of the transition to the new licensing regime and alerting them to the risks of inadvertently committing the offence of advertising unlawful gambling.

“Sports clubs would, of course, be expected to take their own legal advice but, as stated before, we would strongly encourage sporting organisations with existing commercial relationships, in their own interests, to take effective steps to ensure that such of their sponsors as do not hold an operating licence issued by the Commission block access to British consumers and have made it clear that their betting product is not available to those in Britain.

“It is not for the Commission to seek to prescribe how unlicensed operators communicate with potential customers via their advertising but we believe that there would be a real risk of an offence being committed if those advertisements did not make clear that the particular product was not available to consumers in Britain.”

While the Commission believes it is necessary to communicate that unlicensed gambling services are not available to GB players, law firms such as Olswang have queried the legal basis for such a position.

In the meantime, firms that applied for a UK licence just to be able to advertise around internationally watched sports such as the Premier League will no doubt be feeling a little short-changed, given that it seems that non-licensed brands will be able to do just that within certain parameters.

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