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Raising the stakes: how the integration of gambling has become a controversial game-changer



Raising the stakes: how the integration of gambling has become a controversial game-changer

David Granger, director of Arc & Foundry Creative spotlights how the rise in betting opportunities and sponsorship has been mirrored with the occasional downside of mixing gambling with sport.

For my geographical sins, I’m a Leicester City Football Club fan. And, if you ever need an example of the ups, downs, highs, lows and highs again of following a team, then the euphoria and inevitable subsequent despair of following the Foxes is your shining example. Only Leicester could get promoted and find supporters crestfallen as we’re down a manager, a star midfielder and several (exact number TBC) points.

The latest chapter in city’s saga involves the new sponsor announcement. Gambling site BC.GAME is our new front of shirt which has sparked no small degree of controversy among the faithful.

The Foxes Trust, which represents supporters’ interests, is less than happy with the decision, and has expressed in no uncertain terms its concern over the club’s decision to partner with BC.GAME.

It’s the latest example of the deeper integration of betting and sport, becoming increasingly prevalent and contentious. It’s reshaping our business and engagement with fans.

Not always welcomed with open arms, while betting companies and apps brings opportunities and revenues, it also has its challenges and debate over how close it is to an alcohol or tobacco situation.

The integration of gambling and sport has become far more immersive that straight bookmaking. Betway’s partnership with West Ham allows fans to place bets directly through the club’s app and in kiosks at London Stadium, Paddy Power’s ‘Fan Denial’, features hysterical reactions to disastrous results on social media, while the excellent BetFred Insights gives everyone exceptional background on the day’s fixtures.

The sports betting industry is – obviously – a lucrative source of cash for leagues, clubs and broadcasters. In 2022, the UK Gambling Commission reported online gambling yield, including sports betting, reached £6.4 billion – and this has helped contribute to increased sponsorship. In the 2021-22 season, nine out of 20 Premier League clubs had betting companies as shirt sponsors. Next season? It’s gone up to 11. The one concern this will raise is where more than half the Premier League are going to find new sponsors in new sectors before the ban on betting sponsorship falls in the 2026-27 season.

It’s not just the teams who will face challenges. As betting extends its prevalence, federations face the challenge of ensuring the integrity of sports. The FA has, as you’d hope, strict rules banning players, coaches, and officials from betting on football, as England’s Kieran Trippier found out, while playing for Atletico Madrid. In 2020 he was banned by the FA  for 10 weeks for breaching betting rules.

As well as financial concerns there are ethical ones, particularly regarding young fans which has led to calls for stricter advertising regulations – some pushing for a complete ban on gambling sponsorships, similar to tobacco. While The collection and use of user data for personalized experiences raise privacy concerns. The Premier League’s official betting partners have access to official league data, including player stats which has sparked conversations about data ownership and usage rights. Some argue players should get a say in how their performance data is monetized.

The response has been to mitigate against some of the excess and the horror stories. The ‘When the Fun Stops, Stop’ campaign, put out across sports broadcasters, aims to promote responsible betting practices. Additionally, GambleAware’s ‘Bet Regret’ campaign, which partnered with the Football Supporters’ Association, targets young male fans to promote moderation in betting.

For now, and until 2026, betting will keep investing in football and teams will keep benefiting from money from the gaming industry. Perhaps the more pertinent question is whether it is sport’s duty to police the ethics of its backers or whether it is the public’s choice to choose where to place their cash. So, fear not, I’ll still be getting my Leicester shirt for next season.

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