In September 2018, with great fanfare, Formula 1 announced that a deal had been signed between them and Interregional Sports Group, provider of ‘state-of-the-art virtual advertising technologies and sports sponsorship’ to promote in-race betting on the outcome of Grands Prix, using live data gathered by F1 during a race.
This included ISG obtaining the seemingly lucrative rights to sub-license these rights to betting companies worldwide, in a hope that there’d be a bunfight amongst bookies to get involved in what has up-to-now been a relatively untapped market for them.
The deal fits snugly with Liberty’s announcement in November that Vietnam would feature on the Formula 1 calendar from 2020 – Vietnam traditionally being a country with little sporting heritage and a huge interest in gambling, and where legislation has recently changed to allow betting on sporting events where it was once prohibited.
In the UK, F1’s deal with ISG, and their push to capitalise on the gambling market was met with criticism, at a time where the negative social and financial impact of gambling is coming under increasing scrutiny.
“We want to make sure [gambling is] done in a healthy way, we want to make sure it’s done with proper integrity tools around it. But it’s clear that fans enjoy it, I think it makes it more interesting, it makes it more exciting.” said Chase Carey of the deal.
But there’s a snag.
This morning, in the UK, a huge market for F1, it was announced that bookmakers have agreed a voluntary ban on ‘whistle-to-whistle’ betting advertising, or in-play betting during any live sporting events.
This is due to fears that it contributes to the rise in the number of ‘problem gamblers’ in the UK (currently 430,000 people according to a recent Gambling Association survey), and contributes to the rise in under-age gambling.
This means that all of biggest bookmakers in the UK including Paddy Power, Bet365 and Ladbrokes (and any in the Remote Gambling Association (RGA)), will be precluded from striking a deal with ISG.
If it’s recognised as a problem in the UK, then the chances of other countries following suite are quite high.
Liberty (and ISG) will hope that it’s not too many, otherwise another opportunity to grow their revenue will have vanished.