Bolton 'doing right thing' by cutting betting links, says chief executive

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport
University of Bolton Stadium
Bolton's University of Bolton Stadium will no longer have betting kiosks

Bolton Wanderers cut links to betting because the club "didn't need to be part" of a market where adverts are "rammed down our throats", says chief executive Neil Hart.

The League One club, which almost went bust two years ago, said it would no longer seek gambling cash and is removing betting kiosks at its stadium.

Hart believes other clubs could also survive without betting sponsors.

"Bolton want to win on the pitch, but alongside that is doing the right thing," said chief executive Hart.

"We just felt, with the saturation of betting advertising around football, we didn't need to be part of that.

"We are not saying to supporters don't bet, but we aren't going to provide you with that opportunity within the stadium and it's something we believed in.

"The early indication is its been received very positively and our supporters are very much aligned with us."

When the club initially made its announcement on Thursday, chairwoman Sharon Brittan said "problem gambling ruins lives" and "we as an industry must do more", citing research which says there are between 340,000 and 1.4m gambling addicts in the United Kingdom.

But the English Football League, which is sponsored by Sky Bet and whose advertising remains on the Bolton Wanderers website, has said it is operating within current laws and promotes responsible gambling.

The Betting and Gaming Council has also said that fewer children were seeing betting adverts during live sport because of the whistle-to-whistle ban, and that 20% of its members' advertising includes safer gambling messages.

EFL chairman Rick Parry has said that a potential gambling sponsorship ban - which is being considered by government as part of the Gambling Act review - could leave a £40m shortfall for its clubs each year and could force some to go out of business.

Hart, who was previously chief executive at Burnley, says Bolton will respect the EFL's existing relationships with betting firms.

He also supports a potential ban on gambling advertising in football and believes that club's the decision - inspired by Brittan - would put the Bolton "ahead of the curve" if there were any changes to the law.

"It's almost having a lighter touch with it," he told BBC Sport. "No one can disagree that betting adverts are rammed down our throats and there is a heavy saturation of it, particularly with the broadcasting of football matches. I think it's over the top."

He added: "I believe clubs could [survive without gambling advertising], others will tell me differently, but I do.

"Bolton was in a desperate state two years ago, Sharon and Football Ventures saved it from extinction and have guided it though the pandemic on the back of trying to exit administration.

"Now there is a new approach where we are trying to do things a bit differently, with transparency, honesty and openness.

"I know what is out there for Bolton Wanderers in that commercial space and we are going to work very hard to bring in the right partners for us that provide longevity and good levels of revenue as well.

"We don't need to talk to betting companies to do that."

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