Stake sponsorship triggers pre-season legal headache for Sauber F1 team

Thomas Maher
The Stake F1 Team launch the Kick Sauber C44 at an event in London.

Stake's sponsorship of the Sauber F1 entry has resulted in Swiss authorities having a closer look...

The Stake F1 Team, operated by Sauber Motorsport, is under scrutiny from Swiss authorities for the sponsorship deal with the crypto casino operator.

Sauber, who operated the Alfa Romeo entry in recent years, has been rebranded as the Stake F1 Team for 2024 – taking on a new interim identity before the arrival of Audi for 2026.

The plan is for the team to be named Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber, with the more colloquial Stake F1 Team in use for most events – however, in situations where gambling advertising is banned, the intention is to run with Kick F1 Team.

Swiss authorities take closer look at Stake Sauber deal

On Monday, Sauber launched the new Stake F1 car with a special event in London’s Guildhall, with PlanetF1.com present to witness the reveal of the striking neon-green and black C44.

Stake appeared prominently, with logos for the new sponsor emblazoned on the car, driver’s race suits, and venue displays.

However, Stake’s sponsorship is causing Sauber some headaches ahead of the new season, as restrictions on gambling advertising in some countries mean the renaming of the team could be looked on less favourably.

One of the countries in which gambling advertising is closely controlled is Sauber’s home in Switzerland.

According to Switzerland’s Federal Act on Money Games (AMG), which applies to all variations of online real money games, online gambling and advertising are permitted – provided the organiser (in this case, Stake) has a Swiss licence.

Stake does not have a Swiss licence and does not advertise to Swiss users, nor is it accessible within the country.

Sauber Stake F1 sponsorship triggers closer look from Swiss authorities

At present, Stake advertising or branding on Sauber’s website is not viewable in Switzerland and other restricted countries – PlanetF1.com understands this is due to geoblocking measures taken by Sauber to ensure legal compliance in different regions.

A report by Swiss publication SRF, published on Tuesday, contains a statement from Zurich-based Patrick Krauskopf, Head of the Centre for Competition and Commercial Law: “Sponsorship would be permitted. In this case, however, the Stake and Sauber brands are so closely linked and the term Stake is so strongly imprinted in the minds of viewers that we have probably crossed the red line into unauthorised advertising.”

As a result of this, the Swiss Federal Gaming Board – the Eidgenossische Spielbankenkommission (ESBK) – is taking a closer look into Sauber’s arrangements with Stake – PlanetF1.com understands from team sources that this is a routine check to confirm compliance with advertising laws.

While the ESBK is having a look into the Sauber/Stake arrangement, reports of a threatened fine of up to 500,000 CHF are understood to be overblown – this is merely the largest fine possible according to statutes.

“We always comply, and will continue to apply with all applicable laws,” a team spokesperson told PlanetF1.com. “We have taken all measures to comply with them.”

With Stake’s advertising blocked in countries with gambling bans, the intention is for all Stake logos to be covered or replaced at applicable events and races, with the teams’ identity changing to advertise the Kick brand.

PlanetF1.com reached out for comment from the ESBK, who declined to comment on ongoing proceedings but said: “The fight against illegal gambling is regulated in the Swiss Gambling Act and is the responsibility of the Swiss Federal Gaming Board (SFGB).

“Advertising for games of chance that are not authorised in Switzerland is prohibited by law.

“Anyone who willfully advertises games of chance that are not authorised in Switzerland can be fined up to CHF 500,000.

“The SFGB has had the “Stake.com” website blocked as it is an online casino that is not authorised in Switzerland. The site has been on the SFGB’s blocking list since June 2021.”

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