Casino Sponsored Cycling Team DisbandsPublished August 18, 2007 by OCR Editor
Cycling teams sponsored by online casino operators are supported by the greater institutions, on a European level, but are not allowed to participate in races by national authorities.
The gambling site Unibet has therefore pulled out of the team, leading to the cycling teams disbanding at the end of the year. One of the cyclists on the team, Matteo Carrara of Italy, had a good run at the Tour de Suisse earlier this week, coming in fourth overall, but the team was not allowed to take part at the high profile French competitions, the Tour de France and the Paris-Nice road race.
Other sports are enjoying the generous sponsorship of teams and clubs by Internet gambling sites, which seems to many as a natural combination. The target markets of both sports and gambling often overlap and both are enjoying increased revenue, traffic and overall business.
Still, the French race organizers were reluctant to allow a foreign-run casino operation to participate in races on French soil. The teams case was supported by enough powerful institutions around the cycling business, including the International Cycling Union (UCI) and European Union regulators. It brings to light the competing regulatory efforts and legitimization of gaming across Europe, with wide open competition on one hand, state monopolies on the other hand, and various regulatory and political factors.
Criticism of the decision abounds. Sponsors are leaving the sport, most famously the Discovery Channel sponsored team, once the logo worn by Lance Armstrong. Not allowing new players, new media, new business and new money to join in on the action is the wrong message, many believe. Pat McQuaid, president of UCI, has pointed at this issue, saying: "If sponsors aren't guaranteed their team can race, they won't commit to the sport."
The EUs support is not surprising. The continental body is promoting a large scale regulated gambling industry. Resistance on a national level, as in Frances case, still exists. In the meantime, not only do the races lose out on teams and sponsors, and the sites lose out on sponsorship opportunities, so are we, the players, lose.