The British House of Lords select committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry, have recommended to the UK government a ban on gambling companies from being able to sponsor sports teams and events as part of their remit to address gambling-related issues within UK society.
The committee stated that the ‘liberalisation” of gambling by the introduction of the 2005 Gambling Act, the fact that gambling is now readily available on smartphone and mobile technology combined with “soft-touch regulation” by gambling companies has created what they called a “perfect storm” of gambling issues in the UK.
Chaired by Lord Grade, the former chairman of both ITV and the BBC, the commission has submitted 66 recommendations that it urges the government and industry regulatory body, the Gambling Commission, to adhere to now in order to protect customers.
What will the effect be for esports?
While the thrust of the commission’s work has been on sports betting, there is no doubt that these recommendations could also have a significant impact within both the esports and esports betting industries.
Gambling companies not only provide revenue for a vast number of tournaments across a wide range of esports around the world, but there are now many teams and individuals that are sponsored by betting companies. Ninjas in Pyjamas, for example, are just one of a number of teams that are sponsored by online betting site Betway.
With the recommendations effectively stating that gambling endorsements should effectively be done away with, including sponsorship on uniforms, team-wear, apparel, merchandise and the like, this could also have a knock-on effect on the burgeoning esports gaming wear and merchandise industries too.
The UK government has promised a gambling review with the focus on tackling the problems caused by excessive or out of control gambling. The review, which will be the first since 2001, is once again framed to focus mainly on sports betting, but there could be ramifications for the esports betting industry that spring from this.
However, while sports betting is firmly entrenched in society, esports betting is not quite so popular, despite undergoing massive growth over the last ten years. In addition, the evidence that there are betting issues within esports tend to be focused on the abuse of betting companies by fraudsters, such as happened with the recent NA Summer Shuffle betting scam.
In truth, whether or not compulsive, excess gambling in esports is a problem is not fully understood and the issues facing esports gambling tend to be slightly different to those facing traditional sports betting.
The current UK government have been clamping down on gambling for a while now, many claiming that they are using the industry as a whipping-boy and a convenient scapegoat for wider social issues.
With the weight of a number of top sports organisations, such as the Premier League, likely to be opposed to many of the recommendations made by the House of Lords committee, it could well be a delicate balancing act between the recommendations of the committee, and what can be reasonably expected of sports betting companies and the teams and events they sponsor, that the government has to find.
Until they do, the ramifications from the report for gambling spoinsorship in sports and esports, will not be fully understood.