Sports betting: UK Sports Minister resigns

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

Tracey Crouch, the UK Minister for Sport and a qualified football coach, has resigned from the Government on 1 November 2018, because of a delay in introducing a reform of the gambling regulations, which she claims is the result of actions by those in the UK Parliament with “registered interests” with the Gaming Industry.”

The reform was due to be introduced in April 2019 but has now been delayed until October 2019.

Under this reform, the UK Government is to cut the current maximum stake of £100 to just £2 on fixed-odds betting terminals – known in the jargon as ‘FOBTs’ – in a move to reduce betting addictions in the UK.

FOBTs have been described by the Opposition Labour Party as “destructive machines” which have caused widespread betting addictions, leading to some 250 punters a year taking their own lives, having been overwhelmed by the tremendous debt incurred by them as a result of their gambling habits.

The delay in implementing the reform has been justified by the UK Government on fiscal management grounds and also to give the Gaming Industry time to adjust to the changes.

It has been reported that this delay will result in Betting Companies collecting an extra £900 million in revenue from these machines in the meantime!

In her resignation letter to the Prime Minster, Theresa May, Crouch said that this delay was “unjustifiable” and that “politicians come and go but principles stay with us for ever.”

Her resignation has provoked mixed reactions with some saying that it was not necessary, for such a short delay, whilst others – including even the Archbishop of Canterbury! – have agreed with her resignation and congratulated her on the principled stance that she has taken in this matter.

Of course, the fact that betting on sports events is a well-established phenomenon and brings with it important tax revenues should not be overlooked. Also, for example, without betting on horseracing, the sport in the UK would not be able to survive financially.

However, apart from the increase in betting addiction and the misery and financial harm that it causes to the individuals concerned and their families, sports betting – especially on line – has also led to match and spot fixing in a number of sports, including football and cricket.

Betting and sport may, therefore, be described as uneasy ‘bed fellows’ and the balancing of their competing interests is a difficult one to achieve in practice!

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘ian.blackshaw@orange.fr’