GLMS Issues Call to Action Against Unregulated Sports Betting Sponsorships

  • Study found 30% of sponsorship deals were with operators in black or gray markets
  • GLMS found particular prominence of Asian-facing operators
  • Recommendations include a ban on unregulated sports betting sponsorships
Jean Michaël Seri
GLMS has advised sporting bodies to take action to prevent unregulated betting operators from entering sponsorship deals with sports clubs. [Image: Shutterstock]

The ratio of unregulated sponsorships

Global Lottery Monitoring Systems (GLMS) has urged the gambling industry and global sporting bodies to take action against sponsorship deals involving companies operating primarily in unregulated markets.

The integrity body, which first became active in 2017, has published the results of a study looking into the impact of betting operators and their sponsorship of sports competitions and teams. The study placed a specific focus on the Asian betting market.

70% of teams across nine of Europe’s top sports leagues have betting sponsorships

The study found 70% of teams across nine of Europe’s top sports leagues have betting sponsors, with one-quarter of teams displaying the logos of betting companies on their shirts. Of the 188 sports clubs involved in the study, 30% had sponsorship deals with companies operating in black or gray markets.

GLMS argued that the growth of unregulated betting sponsorship in sports could create integrity risks moving forward. The report read: “Unregulated betting operators could ride on sponsorships or marketing deals to advertise their brands and products in overseas markets where betting is illegal and advertising it may be restricted.”

Further details of the study

The study was conducted between July and November 2019. GLMS examined the websites of more than 180 sports teams from nine different competitions to compile a database of the teams and their respective sponsors.

Of the 93% of betting sponsors found in the study, 33% were identified as Asian-facing companies; 30% of teams were involved in a partnership with such an operator. Soccer had the highest ratio of Asian-facing betting operators, representing 50% of the sport’s betting sponsorships. GLMS argued that this was a result of the sport’s popularity in the region.

In its review of the Asian market, GLMS said a number of Asian-facing operators were offering bets to customers in jurisdictions such as China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Malaysia. In doing so, the operators and their sponsorship partners could be accused of facilitating illegal betting, according to the integrity body.

GLMS recommendations

GLMS concluded the report with a list of 10 recommendations to ensure betting sponsorship has only a positive impact on sports.

Within these recommendations, the body encouraged global and national sporting bodies to implement rules to govern betting sponsorships while conducting their own due diligence.

The body urged sporting bodies to ban labeling in stadiums or on shirts in any non-local language

According to GLMS, operators in unregulated markets should not be permitted to enter into sponsorship agreements with sports teams. The body urged sporting bodies to ban labeling in stadiums or on shirts in any non-local language and to punish any clubs found to be in breach of sponsorship rules.

Gambling sponsorship in English soccer

The integrity body’s report focused partly on the English Premier League (EPL) which has a significant reliance on gambling sponsorships. GLMS sees the league as an “excellent marketing platform” for Asian-facing operators with Asian in-home viewers accounting for one-third of its 3.2 billion audience figure last season.

In recent seasons, at least 50% of all EPL teams had shirt sponsorship deals with betting companies, leading to significant criticism from media and government sources. Over the past 2019/20 season, six of the league’s nine total shirt sponsorships were presented in Chinese characters due to the operator’s origin.

Last year, English Championship soccer team Derby County came under fire from the media after agreeing a sponsorship deal with sports betting operator 32Red. The agreement would see former England international Wayne Rooney wear the number 32 shirt after joining the team in January. Kenny Alexander, then CEO of GVC Holdings, labeled the move “a complete own goal” for the industry after his company agreed to donate 42 of its soccer sponsorship assets to gambling charity GambleAware.