Bet365 Steps Up Public Relations Drive by Hiring BGC’s Ursula Servis
Online sports betting giant bet365 has hired former Betting and Gambling Council exec Ursula Servis. Servis takes the role of public affairs manager at the company.
Ahead of the biggest shake-up of gambling laws in the UK, bet365 has hired former Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) comms executive Ursula Servis.
Servis, who headed the BGC’s public affairs department since its creation in 2019, takes on the role of public affairs at the Stoke-on-Trent based company. Before working at the BGC, Servis was the public affairs manager for the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) before the APB was absorbed into the BGC.
Previous experience also includes working at management consultancy experts Cicero who specialise in talent acquisition and growth strategy. Also on Servis’ CV is four-years at Bell Pottinger, an international public relations, reputation management and marketing company who are a subsidiary of Chime Communications Limited. Her duties at bet365 will include promoting the company’s public image and conducting market research on the brand’s public perception.
Another key role will be monitoring public policy and law changes that affect the company and reporting these changes to head of international development Jon Moss.
It is the monitoring and advising on regulatory changes that impact bet365 that is likely to be a key driver of the appointment. The government is reviewing the current gambling laws and has promised to bring in tougher new regulations.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson described the 2005 UK Gambling Act as an “analogue law in a digital age” and promised a “major and wide-ranging review”.
The UK regulator, the Gambling Commission (UKGC) launched Remote Customer Interaction consultation and call for evidence in November asking for feedback on stronger requirements on online operators to identify consumers who may be at risk of gambling harm, and the preventative actions they should take.
The closing date for feedback from consumers, industry representatives and other stakeholders, including campaign groups and those affected by gambling-related issues is 9 February.
It is widely expected that one of the industry’s reforms will be the end of gambling-related sponsorship in sport. Campaigners claim that shirt sponsorship in sports, especially football, normalises gambling and can lead to youngsters starting to gamble. There are also claims that advertisements on TV, radio, and sporting stadia entice problem gamblers of any age.
Public opinion is behind a ban being imposed with market research showing that two-thirds of those questioned want to see an end to gambling companies having commercial relationships with sporting stars or teams.
GambleAware said its research showed that up to 2.7% of adults, which equates to 1.4 million people were problem gamblers. Yet despite these high figures, visibility of gambling products was higher than ever, especially in sport. Football is a large contributor of this increased visibility as half of Premier League teams, and nearly three-quarters (66.6%) of Championship teams had gambling companies as their front-of-shirt sponsor.
Bet365 would be hit harder than many other online sports betting company due to its connection to the Stoke City football club. The Coates family, who owns bet365, bought the club for £1.7m and took on debts of around £9m. Recent news reports show that the club couldn’t survive without the backing of the Coates family, with loses of over £45m being serviced by interest-free loans granted to the club by the family.