The Football Association’s controversial deal to allow betting firms to screen FA Cup matches on a so-called “bet-to-view” basis is being investigated by the Gambling Commission.
Football’s governing body remains in the midst of attempting to quell attacks on its credibility from anti-gambling campaigners, and is in talks with the BBC and BT Sport over ensuring that every tie that could be made available for live broadcast is made available.
However, if the regulator finds any wrongdoing, it has powers to revoke altogether the licence purchased by Bet365, Betfair, William Hill, Coral, Ladbrokes, Unibet and Paddy Power via IMG, an agency that agreed terms with the FA in 2017.
Neil McArthur, the Gambling Commission chief executive, said he understood complaints surrounding the deal, telling BBC Radio 5 Live: “Our investigations into that matter are ongoing.”
Ministers, meanwhile, have pledged a review of gambling laws, which could potentially lead to betting firms being banned from advertising on playing jerseys. Betting advertising in sport will be part of a wide-ranging review of the Gambling Act 2005 by ministers, in response to growing concerns over gambling addiction.
Many of the 72 English Football League teams will be at the forefront of protests, however, expressing fears clubs will go out of business if £40 million of sponsorship is outlawed.
Helen Whately, the minister responsible for gambling, told The Daily Telegraph: “The gambling landscape has changed significantly in recent years, whether it be changes in technology or changes in consumer behaviour. So I am driving forward our work to launch a major review of the Gambling Act to ensure it is fit for the digital age.
“For millions of people, gambling is a fun and occasional activity which does not cause them any problems. Many will have placed a bet on the weekend’s sport, for example. But while there’s a place for a sustainable gambling industry that employs thousands across the country, this should never come at the expense of people’s health and well-being.”
In the Premier League, half of the 20 clubs have betting firm deals, while 15 of the 24 in the Sky Bet Championship have gambling sponsors.
Governing bodies for both leagues say regulation around gambling is a matter for Government. However, the EFL told The Telegraph in a statement: “It remains our view that the gambling industry should make a financial contribution back into football, given the significant revenues it generates from our matches without bearing any of the associated costs.
“Historically, this was achieved through a contribution from the football pools and fixture licensing.”
Over £40m a season is paid by the gambling sector to the EFL and its clubs in return for branding and advertising. The Telegraph disclosed details last August of Derby County’s deal to sign Wayne Rooney in a tie-in with online casino 32Red.
Reviews of the industry by the Gambling Commission and Government had already led to a ban announced on using credit cards to place bets. The new rule starts on April 14.