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ANJ tightens French betting sponsorships rules

Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ), France’s unified gambling authority, has taken a significant step towards tackling growing concerns surrounding French sports sponsorships with gambling operators.

Since the summer of 2022, an ANJ research unit has examined the landscape of French betting sponsorships in which it views a “notable 20% increase in sports partnerships with legal gambling operators – from 34m euros in 2022 to an anticipated 40.7m in 2023”.

Of concern, the ANJ highlighted that approximately “€15m of sports partnerships with operators (are) not authorised in France (notably online casino sites) for gamblers located in Africa and Asia

In the interest of ‘protecting minors’, ‘sports integrity’ and ‘preventing pathological gambling’ – the ANJ has issued new guidelines and recommendations on betting/gambling sponsorships, to be followed by all licensed businesses.

The guidelines and recommendations come in response to an increase in the use of athlete images to promote betting campaigns and the “proliferation of commercial communications in sports venues” – which are deemed absent of mandatory warning messages on problem gambling.

“Such associations run the risk of encouraging excessive or pathological gambling, as well as being exposed to underage audiences,” ANJ warned. The regulator has taken note of drastic changes in the markets of Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, which have imposed blanket bans on betting sponsorships.

The ANJ guidelines focused on “three critical areas: protection of minors, prevention of excessive or pathological gambling, and action against illegal operators.” Improvements in sponsorship standards are needed to “maintain a healthy and balanced gambling environment in the face of a growing marketplace.

Protecting minors, the ANJ will prohibit the use of current sports athletes in campaigns promoting gambling products or betting partnerships. The authority explained: “Our aim is to safeguard young minds from the attractiveness of gambling and ensure their sports heroes aren’t exploited for promotional purposes.”

Moreover, the ANJ called for the exclusion of minors from all active participation in commercial activities implemented as part of a partnership with a gambling operator. “The role of sport is to encourage healthy competition, not to drive commercial activity, especially when it comes to our younger generations,” the ANJ added.

For recommendations, French sports clubs are advised to remove all gambling brand logos from child-size  ‘under-18’ shirts from being distributed.

As part of its efforts to curb excessive or pathological gambling, the ANJ has set forth guidelines that restrict how athletes and competitions are portrayed.

It proposes to prohibit the representation of athletes, referees, and other competition actors betting on their sport in commercials. Further restrictions will see ‘active athletes’ barred from making predictions about competition outcomes or actively promoting odds on a match in their discipline as part of any campaign promoting a gambling business.

“Presenting sports personalities in such contexts blurs the line between healthy competition and gambling, potentially leading to excessive or pathological gambling,” the ANJ explained.

New guidelines further recommend the inclusion of warning messages at the bottom of all billboards and within commercial animations, thereby enhancing the visibility of responsible gambling messages.

French sports clubs have been advised to limit or remove all ‘bet redirect links’ or “betting content” promoted on their club websites to audiences – “Do not display odds, commercial gratification offers, or any other promotional announcements for gambling operators on the websites, applications, content platforms used by sports organisations.”

The ANJ concluded: “While these guidelines provide a robust framework for regulating gambling activities, their effectiveness will be determined by the willingness of sports organisations, clubs, and athletes to adhere to them.

“The sports and gambling landscape is undeniably changing, and these measures mark a step towards ensuring that the shift doesn’t compromise the welfare of the youngest and most vulnerable fans.

The ANJ is committed to a periodic review of its guidelines and recommendations, with the first slated for the first quarter of 2024. It also anticipates proposing legislative and regulatory changes, if required, to ensure these objectives align with the overall policies on gambling and betting.

SBC News ANJ tightens French betting sponsorships rules

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