Magnus Carlsen - Unibet’s brand ambassador, and the newest sports personality in Kindred Group’s campaign on responsible gambling, is excited about being a global ambassador for the company’s Journey to Zero per cent revenue from harmful gambling. “Chess or gambling – it’s all about staying in control,” says Carlsen.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Magnus Carlsen in Oslo, after the undisputed world champion had signed a new one-year sponsorship deal with Kindred brand Unibet. The agreement makes the highest-ranked chess player in history Unibet’s global ambassador of responsible gambling. At the same time, Kindred prolonged its existing sponsorship with Carlsen’s chess club in Norway, Offerspill Sjakklubb (Offerspill = Sacrifice) for one more year.
Since January 2020, Magnus Carlsen has promoted Unibet to strengthen the brand’s position as the expert betting brand, while also increasing awareness among the 600 million chess players and fans around the world. This upcoming year, the main focus will be on promoting safer gambling, with the aim to prevent harmful gambling on Unibet’s platform.
Magnus, why are you passionate about Kindred’s ambition to reach zero per cent of revenue from harmful gambling?
When I first became properly acquainted with Kindred in 2019, I was both impressed and surprised by the Company’s comprehensive approach and extensive work to combat problem gambling. This differed entirely from the picture of the gambling industry created by the supporters of the Norwegian gambling monopoly. I got the impression that no other international company is on par with Kindred Group in developing and implementing responsible gambling tools to create a safe framework for those of us who participate in such activities. So, when the commitment to zero per cent revenue from harmful gambling was announced, I became especially impressed with how far Kindred is willing to go to prevent problem gambling within its own customer base. I really wish to contribute to the fulfilment of this vision, and I am more than willing to spread this message globally.
Your cooperation with Unibet is quite controversial in Norway, since the country still maintains a state-run gambling monopoly. How do you think Norwegians will react to this new sponsorship deal?
The reactions I’ve received to the sponsorship deal over the last two years have been more positive than negative. My experience is that increasingly, more Norwegians support those of us advocating for online gambling licensing system in Norway, similar to those implemented in Denmark, Sweden and a wide range of European countries. Those who fight to maintain the monopoly, to a large extent, build their argument on what I regard as outdated facts, myths and misconceptions about the international gambling industry. As an ambassador, I wish to contribute to the fact and evidence-based debate.
Your Offerspill chess club, - was it more or less established as a protest against those who wish to protect the monopoly and the Norwegian Government’s own gambling companies?
That is partially true. In 2019, Kindred Group was ready to enter into the largest sponsorship deal ever with the Norwegian Chess Federation. However, the deal was voted down at the Federation’s annual congress, after a heated debate based on emotions rather than solid facts. I established the club with some of my friends to secure voting rights in congress to fight for the deal. That move was also highly criticised and we lost the vote. Instead, Offerspill entered into its own sponsorship deal with Kindred in 2020. This has enabled us to become Norway’s largest chess club with over 400 members, many of whom are the highest-ranked players in Norway.
During the pandemic, with Kindred’s help, we initiated a wide range of talent projects and tournaments that contributed to the strong popularity of Norwegian chess and hopefully contributed to even better sporting achievements amongst our younger players. I am, therefore, very pleased that Kindred has decided to prolong our deal with Offerspill, in parallel to Unibet and myself, continuing our co-operation.
Finally, you are now 31 years old and have been making your mark on international chess since you were 13. You have won everything there is to win in the sport, and are still the highest-ranked player in history. What is your next goal and how long will we see you competing at a top global level?
I have definitely not set an end date for my career, and will probably be involved in chess for the rest of my life. But it is unlikely I will defend my World Championship title for the fifth time in 2023. That depends, among other things, on the opposition. But as I have mentioned before, it may be interesting to play against the next generation of chess players represented by Alireza Firoujza if he wins the candidate tournament.
No other chess player has ever achieved a 2900 point rating, a goal I have set for myself even though it will be very difficult to reach (the highest I have achieved is 2882 points and today, April 2022, I am at 2864). It will take one to two years at its best to pass 2900, so I have to continue being sharp and hungry for success, and maintain control in every game and tournament.