UK Gambling Regulator Warns On Unlicensed Fantasy Football Site

October 12, 2021
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The UK Gambling Commission has warned consumers that football-themed website Sorare.com is operating outside its jurisdiction, a warning that follows criticism of the regulator for acting slowly on Football Index, which collapsed earlier this year.

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The UK Gambling Commission has warned consumers that football-themed website Sorare.com is operating outside its jurisdiction, a warning that follows criticism of the regulator for acting slowly on Football Index, which collapsed earlier this year.

The regulator said it was reviewing whether the France-based Sorare needs a gambling licence.

A spokesman for the company, however, said it is "very confident Sorare does not offer any forms of regulated gambling".

The company has a fantasy football platform based on non-fungible tokens (NFTs), or digital collectibles. Ownership is tracked in the blockchain, a digital record of transactions.

On Monday, the Gambling Commission said Sorare's activities are "outside of the gambling regulations that a licensed operator should comply with".

"Consumers are being advised to consider this information when deciding whether or not to interact with the site", the commission said, adding that it would be making no further statements until it concludes its inquiries.

The Sorare spokesman said its view that its products do not involve gambling has been "confirmed by expert legal opinions at every stage since the company was founded, including during a number of fundraising rounds".

"When a product with a nascent technology becomes successful, such as Sorare's digital collectable cards and game, it is normal and expected [for there] to be regulatory questions", spokesman Brian O'Hagan told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

Last month, the French company said it raised $680m through SoftBank's Vision Fund 2, a placing that valued the entire company at $4.3bn.

Since then Vancouver-based Dapper Labs, which markets digital trading cards under the NBA Top Shot brand, raised $250m, valuing the company at $7.6bn, according to CNBC.

Spain's La Liga has reportedly formed partnerships with both companies.

Sorare allows customers to pick an imaginary team of football players and earn points based on those players' performance each week.

Customers can also trade NFTs among themselves.

"The magic is really at the intersection of NFT collectibles and fantasy football," chief executive Nicolas Julia told the Financial Times last month. "The two together brings something that is truly new."

Sorare told the newspaper that the company generated $150m in revenue this year, and it will invest the funding in a US expansion and securing new deals with sports leagues.

The company has hired Ryan Spoon, formerly of BetMGM, and Michael Meltzer, formerly of DraftKings, to enable its US expansion.

Last month, the Gambling Commission apologised after an independent report criticised the regulator for insufficient scrutiny of Football Index.

The Jersey-based company collapsed in March, leaving 280,000 customers missing £3.2m in funds.

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