‘More needs to be done’ to future-proof the regulation of football betting, says Tracey Crouch

Former Minister for Sport and Civil Society (DCMS), Tracey Crouch, has weighed in on the recent debate surrounding the streaming rights for FA Cup games, arguing that Parliament has a duty to implement future-proof regulation while also ‘allowing those who gamble responsibly the freedom to continue’.

The Conservative MP expressed her opinion in Parliament’s magazine The House, addressing the ‘cross-party concern’ over the sale of media rights to betting operators.

She wrote: “The specific story of a rights deal to stream the FA Cup via betting websites raised considerable cross-party concern, especially when one company, bet365, made it conditional that you either had to open an account with a £5 deposit or place a bet to enable you to access the footage.

“We have come a long way since the days when I often felt a lone voice talking about gambling and the risk of harm it brings. Now there are many confident voices on my side of the House joining those on the opposition benches to ensure that safeguards are in place for those whose betting habits change from responsible to harmful. I am not anti-gambling. Given I place bets myself, I would be a hypocrite if I was. I bet on horses, football, golf and politics mainly, but not very often.

“One of the challenges that many face is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore or zone out from gambling because of its increasing normalisation into everyday life.”

Earlier this week, the current Sports Minister Nigel Adams took part in ‘constructive discussions’ with the Football Association (FA) regarding the streaming rights, confirming that that no games will be streamed exclusively through gambling operators from this year’s fourth round.

A report carried out by the Daily Mail had found that coverage of 23 of the 32 FA Cup third-round ties that took place last weekend were accessible via the bet365 website on the conditions that customers staked a bet or signed up for a new account with a £5 deposit.

Crouch continued: “As a Conservative politician it is against my natural instinct to dictate that a sport or indeed a business in a sport shouldn’t do deals with gambling companies, but this is surely where responsibility must come in.

“If there is a flagrant disregard of the impact that betting is having on your audience, whether that is young children at home, football-mad teenagers in their room or spectators in a ground, then maybe the government should take the decision for them. It is, after all, the state that picks up the cost of addiction.

“A lot of work has been done by government, charities, the NHS and, to be fair, in some cases the industry to highlight the harms, expose bad practices and then improve safeguards. But so much more needs to be done.

“The legislation is out of date given the advance of online gambling and I am delighted that the Government has committed to a review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

“The FA/Bet365 issue was simply a reminder that things can slip through the cracks. Now that Parliament is more aware than ever before of the responsibility it has to future-proof regulation of the industry, I genuinely think we can do something brilliant that protects people from harmful risks while allowing those who gamble responsibly the freedom to continue.”

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