August 1, 2021

a game lost in advance – A bullet in the foot

Driven by the crisis and aggressive communication, sports betting continues to grow despite the health and social damage it causes.

Earlier this month, AS Saint-Étienne presented its new main jersey sponsor for next season, Zebet, a sports betting operator who was already its partner. The Greens join Montpellier Hérault in the category of Ligue 1 clubs with a bookmaker on the front of their tunic. The information did not cause much excitement.

Perhaps because sports betting companies are already saturating the football media space: advertising in high rotation during matches and shows, sponsorship of the latter, partnerships with sports journalists and influencers, intensive activity on social networks, development of “brand media”, etc. They are everywhere, and this already flourishing industry has even benefited from the crisis.

In 2020, despite the interruption of competitions, the market has indeed grown further, reaching a record 5.4 billion bets and 4.5 million active player accounts – including one million new (+ 30%). At the start of the school year, the resumption of competitions and then the second confinement gave rise to an unprecedented peak, confirming uninterrupted growth since the liberalization of 2010.

“The dynamics observed in this sector are mainly based on an intensification of the recruitment of players”, observes the National Gaming Authority (ANJ) in its latest report, which anticipates a 26% increase in advertising investments in 2021 compared to 2019. The omnipresence of brands will not weaken during the Euro – football concentrating most of the bets…


However, among our neighbors, this colonization is no longer self-evident. The ban on jersey sponsorship is in force in Italy, is about to be in Spain (41 teams out of 42 in the top two divisions) and is being considered in the UK (26 main jersey sponsors out of 44 in Premier League). League and Championship – read God Save the Foot article). In Germany, partnerships are discreet, and are rare on outfits.

Today, while the French clubs are asking for public aid and tax or social relief to overcome the crisis, it is hard to imagine the government and its majority inflicting a legislative screw-up on them. The public health problem comes after the survival of national football – it already came after the interests of the market (and of the State through its levies).

Scruples are therefore out of the question. Since July 2020, Betclic has been the “official platform” of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, a partnership hailed by the League as offering “Interesting opportunities to recruit and engage new digital fans, especially 18-35 year olds”, while the then managing director, Didier Quillot, was delighted to be associated with “ a modern and strong company with young people ”.

The League thus congratulated itself on… contributing to a major health and social problem: the deleterious effects of sports betting – addiction, excessive losses – are abundantly documented (read the Bondy Blog survey). However, risky practices are much more frequent in sports betting than in other gambling, notes the Observatory of Games (ODJ). The popularity of football, the illusion of knowing it and therefore of having control over chance, the excitement of the matches contribute to it.


Bets are also presented as an adjunct to the sporting spectacle, without which it would be boring: this is the meaning, in particular, of the BetClic “No bet, no game” campaign. A kind of emotional doping that sends a disturbing message: football is not sufficient on its own.

Football with and without betting: Betclic ad, August 2020.

Nine in ten bettors are men, one in three is between 18 and 24, and one in three is 25 to 34, according to ANJ data. Two thirds of the bets are made by players classified as “problematic”, whose profile the ODJ specifies: “Belonging to modest social backgrounds, having a lower level of education and income than those of other players (…) less active than all the players and more frequently unemployed”.

This profile recognizes the target of operators’ recruitment campaigns: the youth of “neighborhoods”, courted with all the codes of urban cultures with the support of rappers and influencers. The promises are fairly invariable: easy wins, excitement of the game, social recognition. “Big odds, big wins, big respect”, as the Winamax slogan summarizes.

When the stake is to rally and retain a young and popular clientele, ambiguities towards the prevention of underage gambling, prohibited by law, are inevitable, even cultivated. The regulatory messages are derisory compared to the speech delivered. According to the French Observatory for Drugs and Drug Addiction, four out of ten seventeen-year-olds had bet at least once in 2019 …


Endowed with new sanctioning powers (including that, in theory, to have a campaign withdrawn), the ANJ retrospectively disowned the famous spot “The New King”. Winamax is all the more easily committed not to distribute it after May 29, since the brand launched a new one at the beginning of the month – to which the Authority has found nothing to complain about. “Tout pour la daronne” nevertheless reiterates its promises of social advancement in a hardly more subtle way.

The new legislation prohibits all commercial communication when “Encourages excessive gambling, trivializes or promotes this type of practice; suggests that playing contributes to social success; contains unfounded statements about the chances that players will win or what they can expect to win; presents the game as an activity allowing to earn a living or as an alternative to paid work ”.

Which operator does not cross more than one of the red lines so defined, if not all of them? Ditto for the prohibitions relating to the prevention of underage gambling: “Staging of minors and personalities or characters belonging to the world of minors; advertising encouraging minors to consider gambling as a natural part of their leisure; advertising aimed at or particularly attractive to children or adolescents ”.

The notion of “recreational game” that the ANJ wants to defend and promote makes sports betting a cultural product, an entertainment that it is inevitable to sell for what it is: an addictive excitement primarily intended for the youngest and most fragile.


Following its examination of the “promotional strategies” of the thirteen authorized operators, the ANJ thus designated several “points of vigilance”: “Stronger targeting of young people with the use of digital marketing strategies on the Snapchat and TikTok social networks, particularly followed by minors; active stimulation of the player having the effect of intensifying gaming practices and the recruitment of new players (bonus, personalization of the offer). “

The legal fragility of possible heavy sanctions does not in itself explain the powerlessness of the public authorities: the problem is to have authorized and deregulated a harmful activity in itself, which the regulatory framework and the obligations of prevention cannot limit. only at the margin. What can a watermark warning like ” Family, social life, financial health. Are you ready to stake everything ? “ in the face of the firepower of bookmakers?

In this year 2021 which has revealed the extent of the evils of football, nothing will therefore oppose the endemic presence of operators in French football and the specialized media – which have no interest in putting on the spot if generous advertisers.

Dependence and economic endangerment of punters are not marginal undesirable effects that we could really control and control, they are at the heart of the prosperous economic model of this industry, the very principle of which is to put all the chances in his favor. .