UK regulator warns sports bodies over offshore gambling partnerships

5 November 2014

The UK Gambling Commission has written to a host of sports governing bodies to outline its position over teams displaying advertisements from non-licensed gambling websites.

The number of partnerships between online gaming operators and professional sports teams has increased in recent years, with some teams entering into commercial agreements with remote gambling operators that do not have a UK licence.

Under new gambling regulations, companies that wish to operate remotely and offer services to consumers in the UK market should gain a licence from the Gambling Commission.

Nick Tofiluk, director of regulatory operations at the Gambling Commission, said in the letter that teams that do have partnerships with such operators should not allow them to advertise without “making it clear in the product advertised and in reality that betting is not available to those in Britain”.

The Gambling Commission warned on of the main risks of maintaining such partnerships when the new regulations come into force is the “risk of committing offences by virtue of an unlicensed third party sponsor failing to prevent consumers based in Great Britain from accessing its services”.

The regulator also said that such partnerships could “impact on the overall effort to combat match fixing through corrupt betting of promoting unlicensed operators in foreign markets”.

Tofiluk added: “Organisations engaging in sponsorship arrangements (i.e. the clubs, or equivalent, themselves) may be liable under section 330 of the Act for the offence of unlawful advertising if they do not ensure the remote gambling activity is actually blocked to consumers in Great Britain and that this is clear to consumers.

“Equally, a sports club or body will be liable for the section 330 offence if it provides a link to an unlicensed sponsor on its website whose facilities for gambling are not blocked to British consumers.

“Carrying out the necessary blocking effectively may offer significant technical challenges in practice. 

“Relevant sports bodies and clubs etc. will no doubt wish to ensure that they have minimised their exposure to this risk.”

Tofiluk also warned of the issues such partnerships could cause in terms of combating match fixing in respective sports.

He noted that risks to the integrity of sport can be greater where betting occurs in markets beyond the reach of the regulator and national governing bodies.

“I would therefore encourage you and your members to consider the matter carefully before engaging in sponsorship arrangements with gambling operators not licensed in Britain and therefore subject to none of the controls that we, sports and the betting industry have developed to combat corrupt sports betting,” Tofiluk said.

“To put it bluntly, the promotion of unlicensed betting operators by sporting organisations is likely to send messages that are counter-productive at best.

“The Commission is of the view that the best way for sports bodies to protect themselves against this risk is to ensure that they only promote gambling operators that hold operating licences issued by the Gambling Commission.”

Related article: HMRC launches online registration for gambling operators