The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has emphasised the financial support that the betting industry provides for UK sports which have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a submission to a House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into ‘sport in our communities’, the BGC stressed that the likes of horseracing, snooker, football and rugby league have relied on the economic lifeline provided by sponsorship, media rights and levy payments from betting operators.
BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said: “The financial impact of the pandemic has been keenly felt by a range of sports, and I’m delighted that the betting and gaming industry has been able to step in to help out.
“Some sports are living on a knife-edge because of the ongoing ban on spectators, so the funding provided by our members is even more important than usual.
“We welcome the Government’s imminent Gambling Review, which will examine the financial relationship between sports such as football, rugby league, horseracing, snooker and darts and betting operators.
“The industry’s importance to these popular national pastimes shows why it’s vital that the Government gets the balance right, and does not drive punters towards the illegal, online black market, who have no interest in supporting sport either at a grassroots or national level.”
Highlighting concerns that grassroots sports are struggling to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic, the BGC praised the work of operators such as GVC Holdings which – through its ‘Pitching In’ initiative – has provided millions of pounds for lower league clubs whose revenues have been decimated by the ban on spectators.
Through the football initiative, none of GVC’s betting or gaming brands are promoted or used at any of the grounds in the leagues involved.
The BGC’s submission also highlighted the historic partnership between betting and sport, pointing out the ‘symbiotic relationship’ with horse and greyhound racing that dates back decades.
It is estimated that horseracing receives around £200m a year from betting shops in betting levies and media rights.
“The sectors would not exist without the sponsorship, levies and media rights payments paid by the betting sector, and so too there would be no product to bet on,” the standards body said.
Sponsorship from betting and gaming operators is worth more than £10 million a year to darts and snooker, while English Football League clubs receive around £40m a year from the industry.
In October, the EFL said: “The significant contribution betting companies make to the ongoing financial sustainability of professional football at all levels is as important now as it has ever been, particularly given the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which is leaving many of our clubs living on a financial knife-edge.”