Newly-promoted Shadow Culture Secretary and Yorkshire MP Tracy Brabin has branded gambling firm Bet 365 as “cynical” over the way she says football fans were forced to place bets to watch matches.
Responding to an urgent question on the issue today in the Commons Ms Brabin, who is Labour’s MP for Batley and Spen and this week bagged one of the party’s top jobs, said the decision to allow Bet 365 to broadcast FA Cup matches exclusively through its website and applications “has outraged many because we're all too aware of the devastating impact gambling can have on lives”.
She said: “At the heart of this issue is the cynical way Bet 365 hook people into placing bets and gambling during the matches, almost grooming people into becoming gamblers. We know the link between gambling, mental health, and suicide is real.”
The controversy centres on Bet365 allowing football fans to watch play if they place a bet via their app. The gambling firm has been showing matches since the start of last season.
The partnership drew criticism from viewers and campaigners over the weekend when all matches were delayed by a minute to promote the Duke of Cambridge's mental health charity.
Ms Brabin drew on the case of one of her constituents, Kimberly Wadsworth, who took her own life after gambling away £36,000 in a fortnight.
Ms Brabin said: “Her death destroyed her family and brought unimaginable heartache. Think of the hundreds of Kimberleys out there who might enjoy football but then find their life ruined by addiction.”
She asked whether the Prime Minister had been in touch with the FA, and whether the association had made any assessment of the impact the deal could have on vulnerable people.
Sports Minister and Selby and Ainsty Tory MP Nigel Adams today said the FA would not be renewing the deal with Bet365 when it comes up for renewal, and is looking at options to see if the current deal can be restricted.
Mr Adams said that it is "absolutely right that the FA acts urgently on this", and said he would be holding a meeting with the organisation to discuss the issue.
He added that "nothing is off the table" when the Government undertakes its review of the Gambling Act, and that his department will "look at every avenue possible to have this deal changed".
But fellow Yorkshire MP, Tory Phillip Davies, added: "What is important are measures that actually tackle problem gambling rather than virtue signalling."
An FA spokesman has said the body would review the arrangements of its deal with IMG, the third party that sold the rights to Bet365, when the contract expires after the end of next season.
It stressed that the deal with IMG was a pre-existing broadcast deal done before it made its decision in mid-2017 to end its official betting partnership with Ladbrokes.
A spokesperson for bet365 said: “bet365 does not sponsor the FA or the FA Cup and does not have any direct commercial agreement with the FA.
“bet365, along with multiple other operators, has the right to live stream certain FA Cup matches through a long standing media rights deal with IMG.
“There is no obligation on bet365’s customers to place a bet on any FA Cup match to enjoy the live streams at bet365. To do so, customers are simply required to either have a funded bet365 account or to have placed a bet on any event with bet365 in the previous 24 hours.
“This requirement importantly ensures that all such customers are fully verified to prevent under 18s from accessing the service.
“bet365 believes that these streaming services provide added value to its customers and enable them to watch FA Cup matches that they might not otherwise have been able to see.”