The gambling industry is targeting ads at players of Fantasy Premier League, an online football game made available to children, the BBC finds.
More and more bookmakers are sponsoring sites related to the popular game known as FPL.
We find gambling ads and promotions in the largest podcasts and social media feeds related to FPL.
The MP who chairs the gambling group said the industry seeks to “infiltrate” sites used by children.
Carolyn Harris, an MP who chairs the All-Party Congressional Group for Gambling-Related Harm. Explain what we discovered. “Extremely worrisome.”
In FPL, players choose their soccer team and earn points based on their real world performance. They compete in global leaderboards and can play with friends and family in private leagues.
The exact number of children playing FPL is unknown. Professor Luke Wilkins of La Trobe University, who has conducted extensive research on fantasy sports, estimates that 45% of registered adults are under 30.
The game is run by the Premier League but has a large community of independent content creators given tips and tools to share online. The Premier League does not operate these websites or podcasts.
The BBC finds The FPL Wire, one of the largest FPL podcasts. It regularly runs ads for the Fairplay Exchange, a new company that lets people bet against each other. FPL Wire declined to comment.
Another independent website, Fantasy Football Scout, ran a promotional article for Bet 365 this month, encouraging readers to sign up for the £500,000 fantasy football game. The website and Bet 365 did not respond to requests for comment.
Guidelines from the Advertising Standards Agency require gambling ads. “Not attracting people under the age of 18”, especially by “Concerned with youth culture”
Last year, the ASA ruled that Ladbrokes’ ads violated its advertising code. As it features Premier League footballers, Philippe Coutinho, Jesse Lingard and Kalidou Koulibaly who are well known to the youngsters.
An FPL spokesperson said: “Fantasy Premier League is free to all users to ensure all fans can participate.
“When we become aware of a violation of this Principle or any other aspect of our Terms and Conditions We will take appropriate action.
“These terms and conditions prohibit the creation of mini-leagues for commercial purposes. And we reserve the right to delete Mini-Leagues and suspend or delete registrations of players who administer or participate in Mini-Leagues without liability.”
‘Shocking but not surprising’
Fantasy Football Fix is a major independent FPL website with over 400,000 users. It is said to provide tips and information to its users. Including using artificial intelligence to optimize fantasy teams.
The business model relies on paying users for premium content with the best strategies to win on FPL. The betting company offers its users free access to Fantasy Football Fix premium content if they open a betting account with them and deposit £5.
For each new customer referred to the bookmaker, Fantasy Football Fix £90 will be paid.
Tom Fleming, from the charity Gambling with Lives, said the BBC’s findings were “shocking but not surprising”.
He believes that the gambling industry sees the FPL community as a “fertile ground” for “the next generation of customers and addicts”.
Plucky is another new site that allows players to set bets using official Fantasy Premier League teams.
A few weeks ago there was a promotion on social media by some of the biggest names in the FPL world, who often appeared on the Premier League’s official FPL lineup.
But Plucky has told us their products are being assessed by the Premier League as compliant and the partners have suspended advertising.
It states that the products are designed to be compatible with and operate within the published terms and conditions of the Premier League.
Companies like Fan Team and Draft Kings are running their own monetized fantasy games. which gives the opportunity for those who like to gamble in a similar way on a daily basis.
Their ads are also commonly seen on Fantasy Football Scout’s platform.
“Daily fantasy sports,” as it’s known, are hugely popular in the United States.
Clean Up Gambling Director Matt Zarb-Cousin believes that “some gambling operators and affiliates are trying to replicate here by using a bridge to connect football fans to real wagering.”
The relationship between fantasy sports such as FPL and gambling is complex.
Academic research in the United States suggests that playing free fantasy sports makes some people more likely to gamble.
Meanwhile, a survey conducted in Ireland found that 25% of Fantasy Football participants met the criteria for internet addiction.
However, we have spoken to several people who say they use the Fantasy Premier League as a mechanism to deal with their existing gambling addiction.
Jamie, that’s not his real name. Barely bet since 2018 and thought “FPL was a big part of filling that gap”.
When a content creator offers a free Fan Team to join, he joins, luckily being protected by the GamStop self-exclusion scheme. So he couldn’t do it.
The Scout Gaming Group, which operates FanTeam, said the site is licensed under the Gambling Commission, “so Fanteam operates under UK regulations.” And do not offer our products to minors or those who self-block via Gamstop.”
“If we believe anyone we work with is not complying with UKGC rules and regulations, we will notify them directly and if not corrected. We will close the relationship with such person as soon as possible. Take action to remove any infringing content.”
Rob also uses GamStop which stops him from seeing online gambling ads. But he said: “I can’t avoid seeing things on Twitter that involve gambling.
“Personally I think the big accounts involved in FPL and gambling should consider themselves.”
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