English bookmakers

  • New betting restrictions in England and Scotland are threatening the English Football League (EFL) and Scottish betting shops, respectively.
  • England is considering banning gambling sponsorships for Premier League clubs in the 2021 season, as well as for EFL clubs by 2023.
  • Scotland has allowed brick-and-mortar betting shops to reopen, but with such severe restrictions that their revenue-generating potential has been reduced to a fraction of what it was prior to the pandemic.
  • A more balanced approach could help the English and Scottish governments accomplish their goals without threatening the future of such major institutions.

LONDON – New government restrictions on sports betting are threatening both the English Football League (EFL) as well as the entire Scottish brick-and-mortar sports betting industry.

In England, the UK government is considering a blanket ban on gambling sponsorships for Premier League and EFL teams, with the Premier League ban being enforced immediately and the EFL ban being delayed until 2023.

In Scotland, the government has introduced a litany of new restrictions to protect bettors against potential spread of COVID-19. These restrictions include banning all live race broadcasts, switching off gambling machines, and removing all chairs from betting shop premises.

Although these restrictions come from different sources and with different intentions, both represent a severe existential threat to the health of major industries.

COVID-19 Restrictions And The Scottish Gambling Industry

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) released a report in response to the new betting restrictions stating that as many as 900 betting shops might be forced to close and as many as 4,500 jobs could be lost as a result of “draconian” public health restrictions on betting.

Brick-and-mortar gambling and sports betting providers were forced to close back in mid-March because of the pandemic and were only allowed to reopen on June 29.

The new public health restrictions were added on short notice. The BGC contends that they are unnecessary and that they will be devastating to the overall sports betting industry in Scotland.

According to the report, brick-and-mortar gambling revenues are down 95% compared to pre-lockdown levels.

BGC CEO Michael Dugher has called on the Scottish government and specifically First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government responded to the BGC, saying:

“Our guidance, which gives betting shops the option to reopen partially for the purpose of placing bets only, is aimed at avoiding clusters of people gathering to watch live sport, with gambling machines switched off to avoid spread through surface transmission.”

Mobile and online sportsbooks are still available in Scotland and should continue to provide a flexible, safe experience during the pandemic.

How The Loss Of Gambling Sponsorships Affects The EFL

The House of Lords published a report last week stating that Premier League clubs should not be allowed to have gambling sponsorships on their shirts beginning in 2021 and that the English Football League should phase out such sponsorships by 2023.

This would be a huge revenue blow to the Premier League, where 10 of 20 teams currently have a gambling firm as their top shirt sponsor. It would be a bigger blow to the EFL, where overall revenues are considerably lower and such sponsorships cover a much larger portion of operating costs.

The issue is compounded by the fact that clubs are already enduring one of the worst periods of economic hardship in English football history as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teams were forced to suspend operations for months and then when they returned to play in June, no spectators were allowed in the stands.

For the EFL, which does not have the Premier League’s lucrative broadcasting rights deal, the loss of spectators is a massive hit to clubs’ financial viability.

EFL clubs recognize the need for responsible gambling but insist that a blanket ban on gambling sponsorships is not the way to eliminate problem gambling.

They suggest that a more cooperative approach could ensure that bettors are as educated as possible about the dangers of problem gambling while protecting the future of the EFL.

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