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World Sports Law Report

Current Issue (August 2014)

Volume: 12 Issue: 8

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About World Sports Law Report

The monthly law journal providing guidance on all aspects of sports law, including licensing and sports data, anti-doping and doping sanctions, TV and broadcasting rights, sport technology, players agents, disciplinary measures, sports integrity, sports betting, player contracts, intellectual property, transfer regulations, sports sponsorship and marketing, and governance, as well as coverage of key legal cases, sporting regulations and governing bodies including the IOC, UEFA and FIFA and sporting events such as London 2012. / read more

Playing regulatory catch-up

Sport and gambling have a long relationship, going back to ancient times. It is known that the Romans bet on gladiatorial contests and that the ancient Greeks also liked the occasional punt. However, with the advent of the internet, betting has taken off into the global multi-billion dollar industry that it is today.

The internet ensured that you could bet on any global event from the comfort of your own sofa. It was perhaps not surprising that one of Britain’s biggest modern exports, sport, would attract the attention of overseas betting operators, keen to cash in on the interest of punters around the world. The Premier League is broadcast in over 170 countries, for example.

While it has always been the case that gambling operators targeting British customers would need a licence of some sort, the situation has been less clear regarding operators who wish to use British sport to appeal to overseas customers. It was understood that as long as you weren’t targeting British customers, you were OK. Due to the huge sums of money on offer and the massive business opportunities (the Asian betting market dwarfs the British market), many agreed partnerships.

This presented regulators with something of a problem. If it is illegal to target British customers without a licence from the Gambling Commission, then it is illegal to advertise to them. Therefore, if a company is advertising an unlicensed operator to the British public, it is advertising an illegal operator. When Britain got round to reforming its Gambling Act from point of origin to a point of consumption basis, this unclear situation was thrown under the cold spotlight of the regulator.

Whether it was the intention of the Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Act 2014 to require all remote gambling operators with sporting partnerships to hold a Gambling Commission licence remains to be seen – even the Gambling Commission admits that this is a concern. As our main news article points out, there is an argument that if an operator is not targeting a British customer and a British customer cannot place bets with that operator, then why should that operator be prevented from advertising using British sport?

Regulatory catch-up is a fun game. I am not sure what odds you would get from operators on whether the Gambling Commission’s interpretation of the law is the correct one. However, such uncertainty is likely to damage the commercial business that has been built up by sport and overseas gambling operators over many years. However, it is a game that sports lawyers will profit from playing, once the new Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Act comes into force, expected in October.

Andy Brown

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