Uniting behind responsible gambling
LeTou chief executive officer Paul Fox explores how sports and gaming can unite to promote a more positive public opinion of the betting industry
Last month the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show reported that 95% of TV advertising breaks during live UK football matches feature at least one gambling advert.
The fact is that football and betting always have been linked, going hand-in-hand like horse racing and gambling, with punters going down to the bookies before the internet changed the face of the industry.
The Premier League now accounts for the highest number of football bets across the world, so it is not a great surprise to see so many matches infiltrated with advertisements.
As the CEO of an international gaming company, I was particularly interested in these findings, following the shirt sponsorship deal that we signed with Premier League club Swansea City for the 2017/18 season.
The much-scrutinised relationship between sport and gaming has extended to advertising on football shirts recently, with the Labour Party particularly vocal in suggesting there should be a ban on gaming companies sponsoring Premier League clubs.
I understand the importance of advertising to the right people, and have engaged with the local community to show that we will not be a faceless brand.
We do not allow the use of our logo on children’s shirts, something that I believe is replicated across the majority of gaming brands sponsoring Premier League clubs.
And I would welcome a dialogue with all those interested parties willing to come to the table to discuss the best way forward .
At the start of the season, we donated our entire corporate hospitality and season tickets to two local charities – Shelter Cymru and Disability Sport Wales – which showed how serious we are about supporting Swansea City’s community of fans.
It is important that gaming companies build relationships with the club they sponsor rather than simply sign a check for brand exposure and ignore the additional opportunities to provide positive value that sponsorship can provide.
LeTou has already shown through its collaboration with Swansea City that on a regional level we take our responsibilities seriously, we are keen to meet with other stakeholders and bolster our efforts in this area.
Betting partnerships have exploded since the first deal was signed by Betfair to sponsor Fulham Football Club back in 2002 .This year the Premiership features nine bookmakers as shirt sponsors, including Bet365, Betway, Dafabet and ManBetX.
Should Labour get into power then there's the possibility these agreements may disappear entirely, but until then there is unlikely to be a drastic shift in the sponsorship landscape.
Whether it is banning shirt sponsorships, removing half-time TV advertisements or reducing the stakes of fixed-odds betting terminals, I hope that the government and our industry can work together to ensure that the changes implemented are effective and worthwhile.
Responsible gambling has been high on the agenda across the industry this year, with the Gambling Commission and the Competition and Markets Authority both recently highlighting shortcomings.
In May, BGO Entertainment was fined £300,000 (€354,200/$286,700) for misleading advertisements on its website and via three affiliate platforms, while 888 was hit with a record £7.8m ($10m/€8.5m) fine in the UK for failing to protect vulnerable customers.
There is no doubt improving the integrity of the industry will continue to be a major talking point and the extent of the government’s crackdown will be revealed at the beginning of 2018.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport launched a 12-week consultation on proposals for changes to gaming machines and social responsibility measures at the end of October.
There is no dispute that there is more work to be done to prevent problem gambling from spiralling out of control, and to prevent it occurring in the first place.
It is a shame that these measures have been deemed necessary, with the majority of punters in this country enjoying a responsible flutter from time to time. However, it is crucial that those vulnerable to problem gambling behaviours and who have suffered in the past are protected to ensure their problems do not escalate out of control.
The industry and the government must come together to protect these individuals. By working more closely with sports administrators and betting companies, politicians can more fully understand and address the challenges that exist and create a plan of action to help the people that need this help
Paul Fox managed a chain of betting shops before moving to Guernsey to join Sportingbet as a football trader in 2008. He was one of a team of three opened Sportingbet’s Manila office in 2009. In 2012 he joined Bodog as director of sportsbook and then went on to join LeTou in 2016 before becoming the CEO earlier this year.