Monday, 1 February 2021

Gambling sponsorship and sport

The main headline on the front page of the Sunday Times yesterday claimed that the government is going to ban gambling sponsorship in sport. The article itself made it clear that this is only a possibility and that no decision has been made, but it quoted three anti-gambling activists saying what a jolly good idea it would be.

Perhaps the idea is to make the public think the government is committed to the policy so campaigners can kick up a stink and accuse it of doing a 'U-turn' in the future (a tactic that has served activists well in the past).

As a snooker fan, I take this threat very seriously. The game was on life support after the Blair government banned tobacco sponsorship and now its new sponsors may soon be snatched from it. I have written about this for Cap-X.

The Government is currently undertaking a review of the Gambling Act (2005) and, according to a story on the front page of the Sunday Times yesterday, such a ban is being seriously considered by Boris Johnson’s supposedly libertarian, pro-business government. There is zero evidence linking gambling sponsorship to problem gambling, rates of which have remained flat ever since gambling advertising was legalised. There is also no evidence that gambling advertising has made children more likely to gamble; rates of underage gambling have fallen sharply in the last ten years. The argument for banning sports sponsorship by betting companies essentially boils down to this: people who don’t like gambling think there is too much of it.

Well, tough. Gambling is a legal activity and no one has ever been harmed by seeing the words ‘Dafabet’ or ‘BetVictor’ on the side of a stage. There will always be people who prefer not be reminded of activities of which they disapprove, but that does not justify censorship. It is true that a lot of football teams have the names of betting companies on their shirts these days, but this is probably a temporary phenomenon that will disappear when the online gambling market matures and consolidates. Even if it doesn’t, so what? It’s up to the clubs to decide who sponsors them, not the people watching the players who have been bought with the money and are having their season tickets subsidised by it.

Do read it all.

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