Gambling watchdog launches probe into FA’s deal to allow betting firms to show Cup matches 

Gambling watchdog launches probe into FA’s controversial deal to allow betting firms to show Cup matches

  • Daily Mail revealed last week that the FA had struck the £750million agreement
  • Gambling Commission announced it’s investigating FA’s 7 bookies partnership
  • Bookies are: Bet365, Betfair, William Hill, Coral, Ladbrokes, Unibet, Paddy Power

An ‘immoral’ deal that lets betting firms show FA Cup matches is being probed by the gambling watchdog (stock image)

An ‘immoral’ deal that lets betting firms show FA Cup matches is being probed by the gambling watchdog.

Campaigners and MPs voiced outrage after the Daily Mail revealed last week that the FA had struck the £750million agreement. Boris Johnson said it should be axed immediately.

The Gambling Commission announced it was investigating the FA’s partnership with seven bookies: Bet365, Betfair, William Hill, Coral, Ladbrokes, Unibet and Paddy Power.

The firms face punishment if they are found to have breached rules, such as those aimed at protecting children from being lured into betting.

Sanctions include warnings, fines or loss of licence. In other developments: 

  • The Gambling Commission also announced that punters will be banned from using credit cards to bet online and in shops;
  • Shares in major UK-listed betting companies tumbled;
  •  Football clubs could face a ban or restrictions on their shirts carrying the names of betting giants;
  • Broadcasters were criticised for exploiting a loophole in rules that ban betting commercials during live matches.

Announcing the inquiry, commission chief executive Neil McArthur said: ‘I understand why there are concerns, and to be clear we already require gambling operators to market, advertise or engage in sponsorship in a socially responsible way.

‘We are in touch with all operators in the deal to find out what they did to satisfy themselves.’

The Gambling Commission announced it was investigating the FA’s partnership with seven bookies: Bet365, Betfair, William Hill, Coral, Ladbrokes, Unibet and Paddy Power (stock image)

The Gambling Commission announced it was investigating the FA’s partnership with seven bookies: Bet365, Betfair, William Hill, Coral, Ladbrokes, Unibet and Paddy Power (stock image)

A spokesman added: ‘We expect gambling operators to ensure, when agreeing commercial deals relevant to sport, that such arrangements are consistent with keeping gambling safe.’

The investigation is a major victory for the Mail, which is calling for the agreement to be scrapped immediately. The six-year contract was negotiated through sports agency IMG, which bought the right to sell live FA Cup matches to bookmakers in 2017. Last week, this newspaper revealed how the majority of the third-round FA Cup ties on the weekend of January 4/5 were broadcast on Bet365. Only two were on free-to-air TV.

Critics accused the FA of enticing gambling, fuelling mental illness and undermining a mental health initiative led by FA president Prince William.

James Grimes, who runs the charity The Big Step, which probes links between football and gambling, said: ‘I would like to thank the Daily Mail for exposing this immoral deal. I welcome the investigation but it comes as no surprise that the Gambling Commission have only acted when public pressure has forced them to do so.

Announcing the inquiry, commission chief executive Neil McArthur (pictured) said: ‘I understand why there are concerns, and to be clear we already require gambling operators to market, advertise or engage in sponsorship in a socially responsible way'

Announcing the inquiry, commission chief executive Neil McArthur (pictured) said: ‘I understand why there are concerns, and to be clear we already require gambling operators to market, advertise or engage in sponsorship in a socially responsible way’

‘Deals such as these will continue to create such consequences and the harm that will be caused is at the hands of the FA, the Gambling Commission and the industry.’

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘I applaud the Daily Mail for exposing this. I am pleased that the Gambling Commission has picked up recommendations made by the MPs’ all-party parliamentary group on gambling harm, and this has helped force a crackdown on the abuses of the gambling companies once and for all.’

Gambling firms have now waived their rights to exclusivity and agreed that the FA can show all matches for free on its website.

Last night’s third-round replay between Tottenham and Middlesbrough was shown live on Bet365.

To watch, fans had to place a bet before kick-off or have a topped-up account. The fixture was also shown live on BBC1. Campaigners are calling for a ban on live streaming on betting sites.

Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group, said: ‘If the FA had any moral compass they wouldn’t have done the deal in the first place – now they must scrap it immediately. Fans are going to open a Bet365 account to watch games and are effectively being groomed into a culture of gambling.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk