Football fans are looking forward to the start of a new season and the Gambling Commission has issued a timely warning of the risks of advertising fantasy football leagues where prizes are available.

Whilst usually seen as a bit of fun, under the Gambling Act 2005 fantasy football and other sports leagues can require a pool betting operating licence where prize values are determined by the number of paying entrants.  Whilst there is an exception where a prize paying league is not run in the course of a business there is no definition of what ‘the course of a business’ means in the Act.

In their guidelines the Gambling Commission say that in order to decide whether they need a pool betting licence, organisers must consider:

  • Does it look and feel like commercial gambling?
  • Is it run for profit?
  • Is there any deduction for running costs?
  • Is the source of participants beyond a genuine circle of friends and relations?
  • Is advertising used to obtain participants?
  • Is the size of the league beyond what is normal for a private league?
  • Can any member of the public view or join the league?
  • What is the level of activity required in running the league?
  • Are there any wider revenue sources?

Particular care needs to be taken where advertisements are issued encouraging someone to gamble given the severity of the penalties for committing an offence under the Act.  Advertisement includes tweets or Facebook posts, whether public or private or within groups.  Promoting a fantasy football league in this way could mean it is being operated in the course of business and needs an operating licence.

Operating pool betting without a licence and advertising unlicensed pool betting are both offences punishable by fines and even imprisonment.

If you’re unsure about whether your company’s fantasy football league breaches gambling rules, be sure to seek legal advice. Farleys’ commercial law team have extensive experience of advising on a range of legal issues for businesses. Get in touch on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry online.