Several online gambling operators have taken a serious hit on their reputations after an exclusive media rights deal granting them the chance to broadcast FA Cup matches online was revealed.
Yesterday, Members of Parliament shared their outrage regarding what they called a “shameful” agreement in the House of Commons and raised a red flag that the deal could be devastating for individuals who suffer from problem gambling. According to them, the media rights agreement could lure gambling addicts back into gambling by using their love for the game of football. Furthermore, football fans would be unwillingly exposed to gambling promotion on the operators’ websites, which could make them place a bet.
Soon after the public wave of criticism, some of the gambling companies who had received exclusive media rights for FA Cup match coverage – William Hill, bet365, Ladbrokes, Coral, Paddy Power, Unibet and Betfair – offered to cancel the exclusivity of the deals. Such a move would have allowed the Football Association (FA) to broadcast matches on its own website.
The betting firms have been instantly blamed for being hypocritical by entering an agreement that has been taken for a mockery of the FA’s decision to put a clear line between football and gambling. However, they claim they had not intentionally sought any exclusive broadcasting rights for the FA Cup games.
Carolyn Harris MP Call for Reforms in the UK Gambling Sector Regulation
As Casino Guardian has already reported, the media rights deals fuelled a wave of controversial opinions, with some politicians calling for the FA to cancel the agreements.
The chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm, Carolyn Harris MP, has even called for some serious reform in the regulation of the gambling sector. Ms Harris has said that both the major UK gambling regulatory body – the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) and the 2005 Gambling Act need reforms in order to make sure they properly serve their function to protect the most vulnerable members of society.
Speaking in the Parliament yesterday, Ms Harris unveiled the issue as a matter of urgency fuelled by the ongoing dispute associated with the FA Cup media rights sale for the purposes of local gambling companies. The APPG chair criticised the deal and called for the British Government to take urgent measures against the actions of the Football Association. She described the agreement as a shameful one and said that everything about it indicates the necessity of reforms in the 2005 Gambling Act.
Nigel Adams, the Sports Minister, explained that it is right that sporting organisations should be given the chance to draw financial benefits from their products and negotiate their own broadcast deals, however, they should remain responsible to sports fans and make sure people are protected from problem gambling.