U.k. Gambling Commission Contacts Sporting Associations

Regulator explains impact of new online gambling point-of-consumption laws

The UK Gambling Commission has written to British sports governing bodies on the implications for their members of the new UK point-of-consumption laws and their influence on marketing and corruption in sports betting in terms of the Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Act 2014.

The correspondence referenced "Land-based advertising of online gambling" and signed off by director of regulatory operations, Nick Tofiluk, reads:

"I am writing in relation to the Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Act 2014 (the ‘Act') and its implications for the way in which gambling may be advertised in Great Britain, which is particularly relevant to you given the close relationship between betting and sport.

"You may be aware that upon commencement of the Act all remote ("online") gambling operators selling into the British market, whether based here or abroad, will be required to hold a Gambling Commission licence to transact with British based consumers.

"As a result, overseas betting operators will be required to inform the Commission about suspicious betting patterns which will help combat illegal activity and corruption in sports betting. I know this is a development that has your full support.

"We are aware that in some cases commercial partnership arrangements (which include sponsorship) are in place between sports clubs or bodies and remote gambling operators who do not hold a Commission licence (i.e. those who purport not to be making services available to consumers in Great Britain).

"Those operators cannot in our view advertise their betting services without both making it clear in the product as advertised and in reality that betting is not available to those in Britain.

"This letter seeks to draw to your attention the risks to sports clubs and bodies of maintaining such relationships when the new Act comes into force.

"Those risks fall essentially under two headings:

• The risk of committing offences by virtue of an unlicensed third party sponsor failing to prevent consumers based in Great Britain from accessing its services

• The impact on the overall effort to combat match fixing through corrupt betting of promoting unlicensed operators in foreign markets

"Organisations engaging in sponsorship arrangements (i.e. the clubs, or equivalent, themselves) may be liable under section 330 of the Act for the offence of unlawful advertising if they do not ensure the remote gambling activity is actually blocked to consumers in Great Britain and that this is clear to consumers.

"Equally, a sports club or body will be liable for the section 330 offence if it provides a link to an unlicensed sponsor on its website whose facilities for gambling are not blocked to British consumers. Carrying out the necessary blocking effectively may offer significant technical challenges in practice. Relevant sports bodies, clubs etc will no doubt wish to ensure that they have minimised their exposure to this risk.

"You will also be aware that risks to the integrity of sport can be greater where betting occurs in markets which are beyond the reach of the Commission and National Governing Bodies. I would therefore encourage you and your members to consider the matter carefully before engaging in sponsorship arrangements with gambling operators not licensed in Britain and therefore subject to none of the controls that we, sports and the betting industry have developed to combat corrupt sports betting.

"To put it bluntly, the promotion of unlicensed betting operators by sporting organisations is likely to send messages that are counter-productive at best.

"The Commission is of the view that the best way for sports bodies to protect themselves against this risk is to ensure that they only promote gambling operators that hold operating licences issued by the Gambling Commission. We sincerely hope this principle will form part of your and your members' future commercial strategies.

"In the meantime, while we appreciate that in a small number of cases some commercial relationships may have time left to run, we would strongly encourage sporting organisations to take effective steps to ensure that their sponsors have blocked access to British consumers."

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