Is F1 gambling with its integrity by allowing in-race betting?
On 18 September 2018, Formula One announced a sponsorship and data rights deal to enable live in-race betting during Grand Prix. According to the Financial Times, Liberty Media's deal with Interregional Sports Group (ISG) is estimated to be worth more than $100 million, making it one of the largest commercial deals in the history of the sport. Additionally, the company behind the sport partnered with Sportradar for its Fraud Detection System.
The deal with ISG and Sportradar is the first-of-the-kind deal in Formula 1 that will deeply integrate with real-time data to allow for in-play betting during races, which the company claims will engage a wider audience.
As part of the deal, ISG will have rights to regionalised on-screen brand graphics, physical and virtual trackside signage and integration across F1's digital and social platforms.
Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations at Formula 1 said, "This deal allows us to develop new and exciting ways for Formula 1 fans around the globe to engage with the world’s greatest racing spectacle while ensuring integrity with best practice oversight from Sportradar."
However, this deal has not gone well with a large section of fans as Formula 1 has overturned a 40-year ban on gambling sponsorships. F1's former boss Bernie Ecclestone was also against the idea of introducing gambling into the sport.
Since the acquisition of Formula 1 in 2017, Liberty Media has been exploring various ways of improving revenue generation, and the inclusion of gambling in the sport puts Formula 1 at a crossroads. Interestingly, the deal comes at a time when addiction to gambling is seen in the same light as addiction to tobacco.
F1 had a long history with tobacco companies; however, with changing times, the sport moved away from that and implemented changes to ban grid girls and improve environmental compliance. With this deal, in the eyes of many, F1 has deviated from the idea of it being a progressive sport.
Betting always revolved around F1, but the introduction of gambling through a deal that allows for track signage would surely rake in a lot of controversies. It could also open to doors to massive corruption scandals and the company behind the franchise has a lot to do to keep the sanctity of racing. The deal with Sportsradar might help their cause though.
On the whole, this new deal might open a host of revenue opportunities for the company behind the sport, but it also has opened doors to criticism that Liberty Media wants to change the way Formula 1 operates, which could alienate the sport from a set of loyal fans in the quest to find new ones.