In July, Fulham became the fourth Premier League club in the past five years to name W88 as its front-of-shirt sponsor following the side’s promotion from the EFL Championship. W88 had been Wolverhampton Wanderers’ front-of-shirt sponsor in 2018/19, Aston Villa’s in 2019/20 and Crystal Palace’s in both 2020/21 and 2021/22.
The announcement came in the weeks following a report that the UK Government was expected to significantly water down its review of the 2005 Gambling Act after fierce lobbying from the gambling industry. One of the key measures which was expected to be removed was a ban on front-of-shirt gambling sponsors.
The gambling review remains unpublished, however, the Premier League has proposed that its members vote on whether to voluntarily introduce a ban itself. Reports on July 19th suggested the vote was to be delayed until September but the necessary 14 votes in favour of the measure was assured. Fulham announced W88 as its front-of-shirt sponsor on July 25.
For the 2022/23 season, nine of the Premier League’s so-called ‘Other 14’ have a gambling or cryptocurrency trading company as their front-of-shirt sponsor. Many of these entities share similar characteristics; opaque operating practices, links to tax havens and no discernible UK presence.
W88 is no different. When following the link on Fulham’s homepage to W88, the URL https://w88.co.uk/ simply leads to a blank page. Briefly in March 2019, the website exhibited its sponsorship of Wolves and Leicester, and featured an English language sign-up link but this had disappeared by July of that year. It does not appear to have been updated since that date.
What does feature on the archived version of the website is an address and registration details. The address appears to be a mostly residential building in Wapping, London. The registration details say that W88 is registered to operate in the UK via a white-label agreement with Midnight Gaming Limited under registration number 08489885 which is regulated by the UK Gambling Commission under licence number 36626.
On the Gambling Commission website, Midnight Gaming Limited shares a UK address with AliQuantum Gaming Limited in Poole, Dorset, which is supposedly currently active and has been since 2016, though its profile on Google suggests it is temporarily closed. However, on Companies House AliQuantum Gaming Limited has a different address which seems to be a residential property and was struck off in 2010. Midnight Gaming moved from the Wapping address to the Poole address in 2020. Hexopay, a gambling payment platform, also shares the Poole address. At some stage, Hexopay changed the URL for its contact us page from https://hexopay.com/contact/ to https://hexopay.com/contact-us/. The old URL now redirects to the new one on which the Poole address is not listed.
AliQuantum Gaming’s website claims that it was “one of the first companies to be granted licences from Malta”. However, searches with the Malta Gaming Authority – formerly the Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LGA) – have no record of AliQuantum Gaming, Midnight Gaming or W88 as currently licensed in the country, nor do any of the companies appear on its enforcement register. The AliQuantum website goes on to explicitly state: “In conjunction with the LGA & our partners in Malta, AliQuantum Gaming can provide help and guidance in applying for all the necessary permits and licenses [sic] required to legally operate any gaming solution.” A number of Maltese addresses for AliQuantum were identified, all of which seem to house numerous other companies.
Midnight Gaming Limited director Hilliard ‘Hilly’ Alan Ehrlich is quoted in each partnership announcement for Wolves, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Fulham as W88’s Business Development Manager. In the latter two announcements, Ehrlich says that W88 has a “global footprint” and, word-for-word, “is a brand which represents integrity, trust and excellence”. The former two statements do not differ significantly.