Simon Stevens, the director of England’s National Health Service (NHS), is calling on English Premier League (EPL) football clubs and the gaming companies which sponsor them to do more about problem gambling. The NHS chief said this past week that gambling addiction is one of the “new threats” facing public officials in the United Kingdom.
Noting that the UK has 430,000 problem gamblers in the country, Simon Stevens said he “encouraged” betting companies which pay to have their patches on EPL club jerseys to pay into the £10m ($USD 12.9 million) fund used to treat the UK’s problem gamblers.
Stevens said those same companies’ failure to pay in to the fund previously to be “deeply concerning”.
During an interview at the recent Health and Care Innovation Expo, the NHS director said, “Taxpayers and the NHS should not be left to pick up the pieces — the health of the nation is everyone’s responsibility.”
Underage UK Gamblers a Concern
Mr. Stevens said the health and well-being of underage British gamblers is of particular concerns. A 2017 report from the UK Gambling Commission estimated that 370,000 children between the ages of 11 and 16 had gambled during the course of a single week. Of those, 25,000 are thought to be problem gamblers.
Gamble Aware, the UK charity organization which advocates for stricter gaming laws, believes the link between EPL teams and British gambling companies has “reached a tipping point”. Gamble Aware’s pronouncements come at a time when UK gaming companies’ sponsorships in the EPL have reached an all-time high.
Premier League Sponsorships
Almost half of the teams in the Premier League now have a sponsorship deal in some way with a gaming companies. For the 2018-19 season, nine of the twenty EPL clubs wear a patch of a gaming company.
In many cases, the teams at the low end of the English Premier League rely on the gaming companies for top sponsorships — though that isn’t always the case. SportPesa sponsors Everton, while Fun88 sponsors Newcastle United.
English Football Clubs with Gaming Ads
If one includes the top two divisions in English football, though, a total of 60% of all teams don the logos of gaming companies. The effect on underage gambling or mass market gambling among adults is unknown. Such companies would not advertise if they were not sure it was effective.
The effect on problem gamblers watching sporting events is huge. According to one Canadian study, 90% of problem gamblers relapse after they try to give up the habit. UK sports bettors who are gambling addicts are likely to watch EPL matches on the television. If their relapse figure is near 90%, then seeing a constant reminder of their addiction is likely to affect their behavior.
UK Gaming Sponsorship Revenues
According to Simon Stephens, since English football clubs benefit with £47.3 million ($62 million) in gaming sponsorships, they should do a bit to offset the damage which might be done to the UK’s society from problem gambling. Even if the EPL clubs choose not to contribute, gaming companies which reap a much bigger reward should contribute.
While it might seem insincere for gaming companies like Betway, DafaBet, and Mansion88 to help fund a problem gambling initiative, the advice from Simon Stephens is not as unrealistic as it might seem at first glance. In the United Kingdom at present, a variety of forces are calling for much more rigid gambling regulations. The bulk of those calls focus on FOBTs and gambling advertisements.
Inoculate Gaming Companies from New Regulations
To avoid new regulations, it would be a smart policy by those gaming companies to manage public perceptions by helping to fund a problem gambling initiative. Often, industry-led actions save money in the long term, because they are proactive and manage public perceptions of a gaming company’s attitudes.
As Benjamin Franklin said, an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure. Paying in to the problem gambling fund might inoculate British gaming companies from a new wave of gambling regulations. In a time when Italy has clamped down on sports-related gaming ads and Ireland is considering the same, the NHS’s head’s advice might be wise to consider.