Does football fuel gambling addiction is a question that’s been doing the rounds in the United Kingdom for many years, and one that has no quick or easy answer.
But before we tackle the answer to this question, it’s important to remember that the UK has a long and rich history of gambling that predates even the first bingo halls that gained popularity at fairs and carnivals in the 1920s. Fast forward to now where millions of UK citizens partake in some type of gambling every year, many of them every day.
These include slot machines, private betting, casino card and table games, horse / dog race betting, the National Lottery, online gambling (online casinos, poker rooms, bingo rooms and sportsbooks), international lotteries, fixed odds betting terminal (FOBT) in bookmakers, scratchcards and sports betting.
Gambling Is Widespread In The UK And 100% Legal
Not only is gambling widespread in the UK, but it’s 100% legal. In fact the UK boasts one of the most liberalised, regulated and well-structured gambling industries in the world, and while this is beneficial in numerous ways, one troubling side effect is it also plays a role in gambling addiction.
The reason being that the advertising, marketing and promotion of gambling plays a big part in any regulated gambling environment, which is especially evident in the UK where online gambling brands are as common place as high street betting shops.
For instance, gambling advertising via print, TV, radio, interactive, direct marketing and social media as well as sports sponsorships are for the most part permitted (within strict guidelines and codes authored by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s advertising regulator).
This brings up the connection between football and gambling and gambling addiction.
Sports Sponsorships Favoured By UK Gaming Firms
Football sponsorships are particularly favoured by land and online gambling operators in the UK for two main reasons.
The first is that many operators recognise that there’s no better way to attract online betting fans than by advertising to them as part of the sport they love and even specific matches they can bet on in real time via mobile.
That’s why if you love a punt, especially in UK, bookmakers and online casinos offering to their customers no deposit deals that are too good not to accept.
The second reason is that football is by far the most popular sport in the UK and thus the most watched live, on TV or via livestream. This means it has the biggest audiences for gambling advertisers to market to, especially the English Premier League.
The UK’s top flight has hundreds of millions of fans locally and abroad, hence gambling sponsorship deals are highly lucrative and very common. In fact almost 50% of English Premier League clubs and more than two thirds of the Championship League clubs are sponsored by gambling companies.
Gaming Brands Constantly Touted To Football Fans
Gambling sponsorships usually entail the particular brand being constantly touted on digital hoardings as well as being printed on the team shirts, essentially the same shirts their fans can purchase in person or online from the team shops.
In other words, gambling is unanimous with high-level football in the UK which in itself isn’t a problem for football fans that are in control of their gambling, but can be a major one for problem gamblers or worse still, those that suffer from a gambling addiction.
Gambling addiction is not only an issue which affects the individual addicts, but in many cases their families, friends and colleagues. It’s also an issue that costs UK taxpayers millions of pounds each year in treatments offered by the NHS, which is worrying.
So much so, in fact, that in September 2018 NHS chief executive Steven Simons revealed how concerned he was about the lack of action from the UK gambling fraternity to address this issue, an issue that shouldn’t be left solely at the door of the NHS.
UK Football Clubs Need To Take More Responsibility
Simons believes UK football clubs with gaming sponsorships should be responsible for putting pressure on their respective gambling sponsors to earmark as little as 0.1% of their annual revenues for charity, specifically the funding the prevention and treatment of problem gambling in the United Kingdom.
The NHS head also confirmed that the NHS would be working closer with the English Premier League on ways to persuade offshore online gaming firms to contribute to the treatment of domestic problem and/or addicted gamblers.
Sadly, since those remarks, there seems to be little if any progress in this regard, and the NHS still bears the brunt of gambling addiction in the UK. Plus there’s a fear that gambling sponsorships and advertising only serve to normalise gambling for children.