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Labour would ban betting firms from football shirts

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The Labour Party would ban gambling firms from sponsoring football shirts if it came to power, according to the party's deputy leader Tom Watson.  Betting on football was worth £1.4bn to bookmakers in the last year for which figures are available.

Nine Premier League clubs have shirts sponsored by betting companies, along with many in the lower divisions.  Many football fans enjoy a bet on games, but it is also very important in the televised Asian market.   Premier League games are seen as free of corrupt practices by Asian gamblers.

The gambling industry has suffered some reputational damage recently.   One firm was fined heavily for failing to do enough to help problem gamblers cope with their habit.  Online gambling firm 888 faced a loss in the first half of the year after facing a record fine for failing to help vulnerable customers.

There has also been concern about a failure to sufficiently regulate footballers betting on games, raised by the ban from the game imposed on Joey Barton, and occasional instances of footballers in lower leagues being accused of influencing games to affect bets.

The industry itself would say that these incidents are isolated, that they are doing what they can to help problem gamblers and that for many people placing a bet is part of the fun of going to a game.  Indeed, if anything, the industry has been most criticised for the high stakes it has allowed on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in its High Street to which problem gamblers are said to be particularly vulnerable.

Some see the criticisms of gambling as part of a resurgence of a puritan morality which likes to stop people doing things which are enjoyable in the context of a football match and not harmful in moderation, such as drinking alcohol and betting.  There is a difficult balance to be struck between protecting people from bad decisions and allowing them freedom of choice.