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Amendment 3

Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL] - Committee – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 9th July 2019.

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Lord Moynihan:

Moved by Lord Moynihan

3: Clause 1, page 1, line 6, at end insert—“( ) for the administration of betting licensing, or”

Photo of Lord Moynihan Lord Moynihan Conservative

In moving Amendment 3, I shall also speak to Amendment 15. I inform the Committee immediately that these amendments do not arise from personal preference but are strongly supported by the Sports and Recreation Alliance, which does so much good work for sport and recreation in this country, and believes it is now important to create a sporting events betting licence scheme. It believes this is an important issue, not just for the Commonwealth Games as a precedent—which it would be—but for sports events more widely.

As a representative body for the sports sector, the Sport and Recreation Alliance supports measures to ensure that games such as the Commonwealth Games have control over the use of their product in order to protect their integrity and to receive fair payment. This is not a first. Other countries such as France and Australia have introduced legislative protection to enable this. I believe a similar approach should be adopted in the UK for the Commonwealth Games. I know that the Government were supportive of looking into this in greater detail. Indeed, the Sports Business Council was established, co-chaired by the then Minister for Sport. Last year, it considered a paper on betting and its relationship to sport, and agreed to look into further policy options along the lines set out. However, the council has not met since. I would be grateful if the Minister could inform the Committee when it intends to meet and, indeed, whether it will meet in the context of the Commonwealth Games. This is an important issue. It is critical to increasing the funding that would come directly to the organising committee; it needs to be looked at very carefully in that context.

I believe the strong support for sports betting rights across the UK is worthy of the Committee’s reflection; many sports bodies, which will be delivering athletes to these Games, believe it right and fair that they should have greater control over how bets are made on their products, and how they can secure a fair return to the organising committee as a result. Independent Gambling Commission figures demonstrate that this is an area of considerable activity and growth. I hope the Minister, in his response, can shed some light on the work that has been done by the Sports Business Council, whether this will be looked upon favourably by the organising committee and whether the Government take the view that the work initiated should be taken forward to its conclusion—to the benefit of the organising committee and the funding of the Games. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I received a briefing on this subject from the Sports and Recreation Alliance. The future of sports betting is an interesting topic. I will be interested to hear what the Government have to say at this time. This Bill may not be the best vehicle, but a quick report on the Government’s thinking would be very helpful.

Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, I agree with what has been said. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is right to have raised this point in relation to these Games, but it has much wider resonance in how sport interfaces with the betting community and vice versa. We need a bit of guidance from the Minister on this. The issue is wider than whether those who wish to gamble can do so in a fair and effective way in the narrow sense of their returns, prices, how odds are obtained and so on. It is about whether broader law allows the intellectual property that goes into the make-up of a game—which is then reused widely for entertainment value and therefore draws wider attention, payments and fees—to be taxed in a way that would allow it to make a fair return to grass-roots sports and access to training; the entertainment aspects are not the only areas we need to be concerned about. This is a much wider question that we will need to come back to.

The Minister will recall, because he was in the department at the time, that we had hopes for a horserace betting right that at one point was going to take over from the convoluted ways in which the horserace betting levy is exercised and paid, issues that I think still lie on the table. The Minister might want to remind us where we are on that because I think it is still unfinished business. The important issue that was raised was whether those who owned, reared, trained and exercised horses and were part of that industry were able to gain the benefits that came straight from the betting side of the game that, through the complicated mechanisms of the Horserace Betting Levy Board, had fallen into desuetude, not least because of the way in which those who operated the betting had moved offshore.

If at some point we are going to come forward with a plan for this where those who are involved in a sport benefit from the betting that is part of it, then we need to think about it in relation to these Games. As has been said, this may be too early for this particular set of Games but it is not an issue that is going to go away and we need to have a preliminary thought about it. If there were a way of running a trial of some kind or even a pilot study, maybe that could be considered. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 5:00 pm, 9th July 2019

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions and to my noble friend for raising this issue. As far as I was concerned, the question was whether this issue was appropriate for the Bill rather than some of the more general questions that have been asked in connection with it.

I will not go through my entire argument but, to be succinct, we do not think this is the right Bill to create a new regulatory regime to regulate betting on the Games, which would be administered by the organising committee. We know that sports betting is a popular entertainment, and preventing competitions being manipulated is essential for upholding public trust in betting and the integrity of sport. However, we have an effective regulator in the Gambling Commission, which also has a dedicated sports betting intelligence unit to uphold betting integrity, and it often receives information from gambling operators about, for example, suspicious betting patterns and suspected criminal betting. We do not think that removing that from the commission for the Games is correct or in line with what the Bill is about. I have mentioned before the operational requirements to produce a good Games.

I understand that there were wider questions. My noble friend asked about the Sports Business Council. That was established as a forum to engage with sport as an economic sector and it met several times over the course of 2017 and 2018. Since then the Sports Minister has changed at least once—perhaps twice, I cannot remember—and the other joint chair, Richard Scudamore, has also moved on. However, the department will renew that engagement in due course with the aim of providing the best platform for the sport and physical activity sectors to grow. This is one of the issues that we will certainly pursue through the policy channels in DCMS, and my noble friend is very welcome to continue along that line.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked about a sports betting right—in other words, a return to sport for the use of their intellectual property rights. I know that some of our sports are interested in exploring this, particularly those with high-profile professional competitions. Again, however, this is not something that the Government are actively pursuing at the moment, and it is certainly not in the scope of the Bill. At the moment we think that the current risk-based regimes for what type of bets operators can offer is proportionate and effective. There are issues such as the fact that limiting bets would not remove all possibility of manipulating a competition. Anyway, sport is international, and overseas operators not offering services to British customers would not be subject to Gambling Commission rules. I am very happy to continue discussions on this outside the Chamber, and I am sure the Sports Minister will be as well. However, I do not think the Bill is the right place for this suggestion, and I hope my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Lord Moynihan Lord Moynihan Conservative

I am grateful to my noble friend. This was a probing amendment, but it was an important one. We are talking about something in the order of £13 billion of total betting on sport, excluding horseracing and greyhound racing. Governments around the world are increasingly looking favourably on the sport betting rights approach. Under French law, organisers of sports competitions have commercial exploitation rights over their competitions and not only they but the events they organise benefit. Through that, the sportsmen and women who participate may benefit too. However, I fully accept that the complexity of this would be significant and, given the time it would take for the House to get it right for the Commonwealth Games, it is unlikely to be deliverable.

With gratitude to the Minister for saying that he will continue to look at this, and having clarified that the work that has been done has not been lost but is being actively pursued in the department, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 3 withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Fookes Baroness Fookes Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We turn to the revised version of Amendment 4, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, which is on the supplementary sheet.