A tale of 2 very different gambling policies
In the US, the powers that be have gone to great lengths to draw a wide divide between those connected with the NFL and those connected with sports betting activity. If you’re associated with a football team either as an owner or staff member, any interest in a gambling related enterprise is a strict no-no.
Efforts to insulate America’s favorite football code from sports betting extend beyond restrictions imposed on those closely connected with the NFL. The NFL strongly opposed Barney Frank’s online gambling regulation bill H.R. 2267 until the bill was amended to remove sports betting as one of the categories of gambling classified as legally able to be offered to Americans via the Internet.
Professional gamblers and their football teams
Imagine a professional punter…someone who had a made his fortune and continues to make a lot of money betting on NFL games, becoming the owner of an NFL team. Hard to imagine right?
In England, not one, but two Football League One soccer teams are owned by such individuals.
Tony Bloom is chairman and major shareholder of Brentford FC. He is also one of the world’s most successful professional sports bettors having made his fortune punting largely on English football. Matthew Benham owns 30% of the Brighton and Hove Albion Seagulls and has also made his millions punting on soccer and running sports betting consulting business Smartodds.
Both men have tipped considerable funds into their respective (and formerly cash strapped) clubs reasoning that the game’s been good to them so giving something back is only fair.
Online betting and UK football
It’s true Brentford and Brighton are only lower (3rd) division teams. But strong connections between betting firms and football clubs is a common theme in England across all divisions including the Premier League.
Jersey sponsors of Premier League teams include online betting firms 188Bet, SBOBet, Sportingbet and Tombola. Stadium and minor sponsors include a who’s who of the online gambling world including bet365 , Ladbrokes , PaddyPower , BetFred , Party Gaming , Digibet and Setanta Sports.
Ties aren’t limited to sponsorship either. bet365 owner Peter Coates is also majority shareholder of EPL team Stoke City.
Online betting in the UK generally
English football’s open door policy toward online gambling connections is a microcosm of the broader UK policy toward online gambling where a regulatory regime in place since 2006 has allowed operators licensed in either the UK or jurisdictions on the Gambling Commissions White List to offer and advertise their services.
While the US continues to grapple with how to deal with online gambling, in the UK its presence is well and truly entrenched…and not only on football pitches across the country.
The WSJ cites examples of universities offering master’s degrees in “gambling studies.” Brits can tune into roulette television on free to air Channel Five and play casino games from their lounge rooms. Most of the largest and most recognized brand names in the online gambling world are either listed in, or headquartered in the UK.
Yep, very, very different to the US position where the Justice Department will chase down and prosecute operators offering their services to Americans, and UIGEA restrictions make it difficult for US players to deposit and play.
Problem gambling comparison
An interesting footnote to the above discussion is a consideration of problem gambling stats from the UK and US. Faced with a myriad of Internet betting options and saturated by gambling related advertising you’d expect the incidence of problem gambling in the UK to be worse than the US right?
According to the UK Gambling Commission’s Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010 it’s actually much better.
At 5.9 the report lists problem gambling prevalence rates in a number of different countries. 0.9% of British adults are problem gamblers. 3.5% of American adults are problem gamblers.
The report does stress that, “comparing prevalence rates from other jurisdictions is difficult as different sampling methodologies, data collection techniques and problem gambling screens have been used”
Still, not the result you’d expect.