Industry-leading crypto casino Stake.com has signed a landmark partnership with Everton FC in the UK, but the latter draws controversy for its decision to go through with the deal.
Everton FC was criticised by various officials from the public sector and gambling advocacy groups, describing the football club’s 3-year deal with the online gambling firm as a “real strategic error”.
The controversy is especially relevant at present given the long-awaited and severely delayed release of a white paper that would introduce significant reforms in the online gambling industry.
Charles Ritchie, founder of non-profit group Gambling with Lives, slammed the football club, noting that: “To announce this partnership on a day when research reveals hundreds of thousands of people are losing thousands of pounds each year on the most addictive online gambling products – with a third of these from most-deprived areas – is remarkably short-sighted, especially during a cost-of-living crisis.
“There are more than 400 gambling-related suicides in England each year and the way in to gambling for many is through football. Many Everton fans also come from deprived areas and many will become addicted to gambling and, tragically, some will die. How can Everton continue to call itself ‘The People’s Club’?”
Football clubs have been receiving increased pressure from advocacy groups to ban front-of-shirt sponsorships from gambling companies in light of worrying data surrounding the negative effects of gambling on the vulnerable and the economically-disadvantaged. In fact, Everton was one of the clubs that had already said they would not take sponsorships from online casinos; their backtracking on this statement has only served to exacerbate the issue.
Now, the gambling reform white paper is expected to refrain from outright criminalizing these sorts of sponsorships. Ministers anticipate that the paper would instead recommend that Premier League FCs would opt for voluntary prohibition.
A matter of necessity
It should be known that Everton’s partnership was mostly born out of necessity. The club had reported record-breaking losses of over £370 million over the past 3 years.
Everton had previously ended a similar partnership with Kenyan gambling giant SportPesa two years before they signed the deal with leading bitcoin casino, Stake.com. At the time, Everton chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale defended their decision, saying: “In an ideal world, moving forward, we would look to have a different type of sponsor on the front of our shirts, like all football clubs would, but that is a commercial decision that we make as a football club.”
Prior to that, they entered into a contract with the online vehicle vendor Cazoo for a period of three years, but they ended that agreement a year earlier as well.
After suspending all commercial and sponsorship activity with firms associated with Alisher Usmanov, (who was sanctioned over Russia's invasion of Ukraine), they reached an agreement with Stake.com, which had sponsored Watford FC in the last season.
“Stake.com is an ambitious organisation with impressive growth plans,” Barrett-Baxendale said of the new partnership, “and we’re all very excited to enter into a partnership with them at this stage in their journey.”
“My talented colleagues in our new revenue team have made excellent progress in recent months and worked tirelessly to secure what is the biggest main partnership deal in the club’s history – I’d like to congratulate them on this achievement and, on behalf of everyone at the club, express my gratitude to Stake.com for choosing Everton as a long-term partner.”