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The Sound of Silence

By Lars

Premier League clubs are unwilling to answer questions regarding their Asian betting sponsors and partners.

By Lars Johnsen

Following the publication of the article The trillion-dollar gambling game, an 18-month investigation about Asian betting sites and their partnerships with Premier League clubs, Josimar asked eleven Premier League clubs about their relationship with ultimately foreign-based, overwhelmingly Asian betting operators. A list of these clubs and of their e-Gambling partners can be found at the end of this article.

We asked ten clubs to reply no later than Friday 20 August. In the case of Leicester City, we asked for a reply on Tuesday 24 August.

These are the questions we put to them:

Josimar magazine is looking at the relationship between Premier League clubs and Asian e-Gambling platforms, which, in your club’s case is: X

How did you enter this partnership? 

Were you approached by X directly, by a ‘white label’ company, or by a different UK agent?

How long has this partnership been in place for, and when is its term?

X is ultimately owned by foreign-based/Asian shareholders. Do you know who they are?

Have you sought to establish their identity? If yes, who are they? Have you sought to establish whether they were suitable partners for your club?

If not, why did you not deem this necessary?

Who was the partnership fee paid by? 

To date (25 August), only two clubs have responded to our enquiries.

Manchester United replied on Thursday asking to have the deadline extended as it was “tough to get a response by the end of the week given the time differences”.  We told Manchester United that extending the deadline through to Monday would be no problem.

We got an answer on Tuesday:
I’m afraid that we are not able to answer your specific questions because:
We do not comment on confidential negotiations with prospective partners, nor on the due diligence carried out as part of this process.
We do not comment on confidential financial or contractual details of our commercial partnerships.

This is an approach we follow in respect of all our partnerships and discussions with prospective partners, not something specific to HTH.

As background, we can confirm that our agreement with HTH complies with all relevant UK gambling laws.”

Wolverhampton Wanderers gave this answer:
“Unfortunately this is not something we plan to provide answers on I’m afraid. Many thanks for your understanding.”

Arsenal, Aston Villa, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Leeds United, Leicester City, Newcastle United, Southampton and Watford have remained silent until now (25 August). We will update this page if and when we receive responses from the clubs concerned.

In parallel, Josimar got back in touch with the UK Gambling Commission to ask the following questions.

– Does the UK Gambling Commission know who the ultimate beneficial owners/shareholders of the Eastern Asian platforms which operate through a “white label” company are?

– Does the UK Gambling Commission proactively seek to establish who these beneficial owners/shareholders (a vast majority of which are Eastern Asian) are? Do these beneficial owners/shareholders have a duty to provide you with this information? 

– If yes, are these beneficial owners and shareholders subjected to verification of their credentials and suitability? If not, why?

This is the response we received from a UK Gambling Commission spokesperson.

“We do not talk about individual operators or cases. […]

Before we licence an operator we investigate the suitability of a company to hold a licence – this is a detailed look at who is involved in the company, who are the shareholders, criminal record checks, financial reports, how the company is funded and the source of funding. […]We would only offer a view on a licence application once we had carried out all of the necessary checks and reviewed all relevant aspects of the business.

We also require operators to tell us websites they will be using under their licence and this includes white label websites. We do not currently investigate marketing partners as part of an application, but we would if an issue was brought to our attention. Where an operator contracts with a third party, we expect the operators that we licence to carry out all necessary due diligence to satisfy themselves that the proposed relationship will not in any way compromise the operator’s own compliance. (Josimar note: we understand that this means that it falls to the operators themselves to carry out due diligence of companies of which they are subsidiaries)

We expect licensees to ensure that when agreeing commercial deals with sports clubs, that all parties are aware of, and compliant with, the relevant advertising and sponsorship rules and regulations.”

The English Premier League clubs we contacted and their foreign-based/Asian e-Gambling partners (shirt sponsors, sleeve sponsors, ‘global betting partners’ and ‘official partners):

Arsenal: sportsbet.io
Aston Villa: OB Sports
Burnley: Spreadex Sports
Crystal Palace: W88
Leeds United: SBOTOP
Leicester City: HTH, W88 and Lovebet
Manchester United: HTH
Newcastle United: FUN88
Southampton: sportsbet.io
Watford: Stake.com
Wolverhampton Wanderers: ManBetX

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