Campaigners Warn of Betting Frenzy Ahead of Premier League and Championship Return

Gambling welfare advocates have urged caution ahead of English football’s return. The country’s Premier League and Championship are both set to resume following months of inactivity and all 92 Premiership fixtures will be aired on television as they will all be held behind closed doors.Betting companies and online casinos are largely expected to relaunch marketing campaigns, with apps, football grounds, and club shirts to be the primary mediums. The Premier League and Championship have a combined 27 clubs with a betting company as their main shirt sponsor, which marks 61 percent of the 44 teams from both leagues.According to research carried out by the Gambling Commission, betting habits remained strong even during the period where no sports were being played and in spite of people losing income due to lockdowns. The Commission found there was just a five percent decrease of activity in active player accounts.Welfare campaigners were left worried by the fact that 62 percent of “engaged gamblers” (people who take part in gambling activities three or more times during a four-week period) actually increased time and money spent on at least one gambling activity during the months of March and April. It was also determined that the number of persons who made at least one online bet increased from 26 percent in April 2019 to 42 percent in April this year.“We know from previous studies that engagement across a larger number of activities can correlate to higher levels of moderate-risk and problem gambling,” the Commission said on its findings.“During lockdown people with gambling problems have increased the amount of time and money they spend gambling,” Charles Ritchie, co-founder of the charity Gambling with Lives, said to the Guardian.“We fear that the situation is going to get worse because alongside the welcome return of football and televised live games, we face the awful prospect of a massive boom in gambling advertising and marketing.“Most people will deplore the constant parade in this marketing of the usual celebrities, false glamour and excitement, and incomprehensible offers. But for many people this could spell despair and disaster, lured back into the 90-minute non-stop in-game frenzy of betting on any and every aspect of the game, which is the reality of modern football betting.”Ritchie has been outspoken on the subject of football betting and its attraction, especially due to the ever-increasing in-game options. Research has shown that short-term betting, such as betting on the next goal or an event in which a player is shown a yellow or red card has become way more popular than longer-term bets like match results.“The increased opportunity to watch games from home and for free has the potential to cause gambling harm,” recovering gambling addict James Grimes says. “The social aspect of football has gone for the time being and solitary viewing, with a bookmaker effectively on your phone in your pocket, is a recipe for harm.”Grimes has called on the government to ban gambling sponsorships in football.“As a recovering gambling addict, I think back to when my life revolved around betting on football,” he continued. “I didn’t need an excuse to stay home, losing all my money on in-play, high-intensity gambling products associated to football. I dread to think of the consequences for my addiction if I was still gambling now, with the prevalence of betting opportunities and relentless marketing.”Back in February, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said he’s aware that stronger governance is required where gambling is concerned, especially in terms of protecting the vulnerable. He also said the league would cooperate with the government’s 2005 Gambling Act but would not move to ban marketing on shirts.The EFL says it’s “happy to work with a responsible, properly regulated bookmaker who recognises the importance of having the right safeguards in place,” on its association with Sky Bet.The Premier League returns on June 17 and Championship football will follow three days later.

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