UK Gambling Commission says court has final word on betting partnerships

By Emma Rumney
The UK Gambling Commission has indicated that online gambling operators who wish to maintain their partnerships with sports franchises without having to get a UK licence might be able to do so, although the final decision will be made by the courts.

Currently, overseas operators providing or marketing gambling services to UK citizens can do so on the basis they hold a licence issued by a ‘white list’ jurisdiction such as the Isle of Man or Malta.

From the beginning of October, when the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act, 2014 comes into force, this will no longer be the case and remote operators must hold a licence from the UK Commission.

The Commission had also previously stated that it had no intention to issue any “advertising only” licences or to licence any firm that was not actively doing business in the UK.

This poses a problem for operators who hold betting partnerships with UK sports franchises. Especially for the many predominately or wholly Asian-facing firms who don’t cater to the UK market, but sponsor UK football teams to raise the firm’s profile amongst their massive Asian followings.

Such partnerships, often fairly long-term and valuable to both sides, are now being called into question by the approaching changes.

When the Commission last updated its FAQ on the implementation of the new act last Friday it specifically addressed whether, if such firms blocked UK citizens from wagering on their websites, partnerships would be allowed.

The Commission has taken a somewhat less firm stance by stating that “only the courts can provide a definitive view” on the legality of such a scheme.

However it remains reluctant, stating that blocking technology is not completely reliable and that sports clubs that continue to advertise firms not licensed by the Commission will be “wholly reliant on that operator having appropriate and effective measures in place to block access to British consumers”.

To add, it states that operators without a UK licence wouldn’t be “subject to the provisions around reporting suspicious betting activity and the general player protection framework”.

Finally it said that maintaining its original stance on the issue provides “greater clarity” to operators and advertisers on the law.

The absence of such clarity, the Commission warns, would be “complex and costly”.


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