Sports minister Nigel Huddleston has confirmed a wide-ranging review of gambling laws will look at betting advertising in sport, and warned the Government would act if there was “evidence of harm” in relation to it.
The review of the 2005 Gambling Act has been announced by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, as the Government seeks to ensure gambling legislation is fit for the digital age.
Huddleston told the House of Commons on Tuesday: “We will consider gambling advertising, including sports sponsorship, while taking into account the extremely difficult financial situation that many sports organisations find themselves in now, as well as broadcasters, as a result of Covid.”
In response to a question from Ronnie Cowan – the Scottish National Party MP for Inverclyde – about whether the review would seek to speak to those with a lived experience of the harms of gambling addiction, Huddleston said: “The Secretary of State and I have already met with many victims and their families and we will continue to do so.
“In terms of sport, if there is evidence of harm coming from sponsorship and advertising, we will act, and I welcome the scrutiny that he and others will pay to this review as it progresses.”
The terms of reference for the review state: “A significant channel for gambling brand marketing is sponsorship of sports teams and events, including shirt sponsorship and similar deals with sports bodies.
“Commercial arrangements with gambling operators are a significant source of income for British sports and teams, particularly horse racing and football teams.
“While the government has always been clear that sporting bodies must consider their responsibility to the welfare of fans and supporters when agreeing such deals, we have equally recognised their right to benefit from commercial deals.
“However, with growing public concern about the relationship between sport and gambling, we are seeking evidence on the positive and negative outcomes of this relationship to make sure we can strike an appropriate balance in developing policy.”
EFL chairman Rick Parry said last month that a swift introduction of a ban would be “potentially catastrophic” for clubs in his competition.
However, he told MPs at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee hearing: “If it were phased in overtime, then frankly, clubs would have to find a way of adapting.
“We look forward to playing a part in the DCMS review which we hope will be evidence-based and we look forward to contributing evidence to that process.”
There is no suggestion that the Government will ultimately ban betting companies from being front-of-shirt sponsors.
At this stage it is gathering evidence until March 31, 2021.