Gambling logos can appear more than 700 times in a single football match, according to a documentary in which former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson calls for a “radical overhaul” of the relationship between sport and the bets.
On her first outing as a television presenter, Davidson describes the games industry’s relationship with football as a “parasite that takes hold of the host” in the Channel 4 program, which is due to air Monday. evening.
The influential lifetime peer intervention in the debate comes as the government is in the midst of a review of gambling laws, which will include a review of sponsorship agreements.
Davidson, an avid football player and Dunfermline Athletic fan, spoke to former drug addicts, clubs, activists and academics, including one who measured the visibility of the game during game broadcasts.
According to an analysis using the methodology developed by Dr Robin Ireland of the University of Glasgow, there were as many as 716 ‘exposures’ to gambling in a match between Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers, both of which have gaming sponsors. – or more than six logos per minute.
While the industry has agreed to a voluntary ban on “whistle-to-whistle” television advertising during afternoon games, research from Ireland has found that their branding is still visible at all times, in especially on road signs at the edge of the field.
Davidson is also concerned about “cross-selling”, where game companies invite football betting fans to try other products, such as casino games which generally have higher addiction rates than sports betting. .
A data scientist who has worked for gambling companies and spoke anonymously to Channel 4 said: “Real money is if you can. […] make these customers also bet on the casino. In sports you can win if you are well informed or know how to bet, but in gambling in the long run you will always lose.
He said gaming companies were using algorithms to identify customers they might want to entice to bet more or try other products, rolling out controversial incentives such as free bets and bonuses.
“If you see someone spending a lot, you’ll want to make sure they’re doing it regularly,” he said.
Davidson also interviewed MP John Whittingdale, the deputy minister overseeing the gambling review at the Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
Whittingdale has admitted that online gambling has presented new public health concerns which are expected to ‘outweigh’ any fears about the impact on £ 3bn in annual betting rights revenue, if the profits of l industry are curtailed by stricter regulations.
But Davidson is not convinced restrictions on advertising are likely, with the minister citing a lack of evidence linking her to addiction.
Whittingdale’s appointment to DCMS sparked concern among reform activists, due to earlier comments that appeared to downplay the dangers of FOBT digital roulette machines, which the government later called a “social evil.”
The documentary, titled Gambling’s Football Addiction, shows how entrenched the game has become within the game and among those who watch it.
He cites the gaming industry‘s annual contribution to football club coffers of over £ 100million – plus around £ 200million spent with broadcasters – which football authorities and betting groups say , make any sponsorship restriction undesirable.
But Tranmere Rovers chairman and former Football Association boss Mark Palios told Davidson the club had successfully weaned themselves from gambling sponsorship income.
The documentary also explores the gambling addiction suffered by footballers, including former Tottenham and England defender Stephen Caulker.
According to the Sporting Chance Clinic, which helps athletes with addictions, gambling has overtaken drugs and alcohol as the most common addiction among professionals seeking treatment.
A spokesperson for the Betting & Gaming Council said: “A recent study by Professor Ian McHale of the University of Liverpool examined the relationship between football sponsorship, betting participation and problem gambling, and concluded that there was no evidence that sponsorship of clubs or leagues by betting operators influenced betting participation.
“A recent report from the Gambling Commission also suggested that the rates of problem and risk gambling declined in 2020, but one problem gambler is too much gambler, which is why we will continue our work to further improve standards and promote safer play. “