French regulator introduces stricter regulations to tackle concerns over gambling sponsorships in sports

France’s gambling authority, the Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ), has taken a step towards tackling growing concerns surrounding French sports sponsorships with gambling operators. In an effort to address this issue, the ANJ has tightened its regulations, aiming to ease worries about the influence of these commercial relationships in the sporting realm.

According to a recent report by an ANJ research unit, there has been a “notable” 20% increase in sports partnerships with legal gambling operators, amounting to €34 million ($36.5 million) in 2022 and anticipated to reach €40.7 million ($43.7 million) in 2023.

As part of its findings, the ANJ highlighted that approximately €15 million ($16 million) of these sports partnerships with operators are not authorized in France for gamblers located in Africa and Asia. This revelation has raised concerns regarding the scope and impact of these sponsorships, prompting the ANJ to take action.

In an effort to protect minors, preserve sports integrity, and prevent pathological gambling, the ANJ has released new guidelines and recommendations on betting and gambling sponsorships, which are to be followed by all licensed businesses. The ANJ said the effort aims to safeguard vulnerable populations and ensure that sports stars are not exploited for promotional purposes.

“Our aim is to safeguard young minds from the attractiveness of gambling and ensure their sports heroes aren’t exploited for promotional purposes,” stated the ANJ regarding the prohibition of current sports athletes in campaigns promoting gambling products or betting partnerships.

The ANJ also emphasized the importance of excluding minors from participating in commercial activities associated with gambling operators. “The role of sport is to encourage healthy competition, not to drive commercial activity, especially when it comes to our younger generations,” added the ANJ.

To address the issue, the ANJ has recommended that French sports clubs remove all gambling brand logos from child-size shirts intended for those under 18 years old, further protecting minors from the influence of gambling sponsorships.

In its efforts to curb excessive or pathological gambling, the ANJ has outlined guidelines that restrict the portrayal of athletes and competitions. For instance, the ANJ proposes prohibiting the representation of athletes, referees, and other competition actors betting on their sport in commercials. 

Additionally, active athletes are barred from making predictions about competition outcomes or actively promoting odds on a match in their discipline as part of any campaign promoting a gambling business.

Presenting sports personalities in such contexts blurs the line between healthy competition and gambling, potentially leading to excessive or pathological gambling,” explained the French regulator, highlighting the need for these restrictions.

The ANJ has also recommended the inclusion of warning messages at the bottom of billboards and within commercial animations to enhance the visibility of responsible gambling messages. 

Furthermore, French sports clubs have been advised to limit or remove all “bet redirect links” or “betting content” promoted on their websites, applications, and content platforms to prevent the proliferation of gambling-related promotions.

“While these guidelines provide a robust framework for regulating gambling activities, their effectiveness will be determined by the willingness of sports organizations, clubs, and athletes to adhere to them,” concluded the ANJ. 

The ANJ noted it is committed to conducting periodic reviews of its guidelines and recommendations, with the first review scheduled for the first quarter of 2024. Additionally, the authority says it remains open to proposing legislative and regulatory changes, if necessary, to align objectives with broader gambling and betting policies.