Gambling is a Pandora’s Box

February 19, 2015 4:31 pm

I’d placed another bet…there was a time when I was quite cock sure about this, I understood football and rugby and could analyse data and form effectively enough to do okay…it gave the weekend a zing if I’d won, but on the other side of the coin I didn’t like losing; and after all that is what the gambling companies want. The law of averages and clever mathematics puts them firmly in the driving seat.

Prior to two years ago I rarely placed a bet apart from on the Grand National or a punt on whom I thought would win the Rugby World Cup. This would involve a visit to the local betting shop which always felt a bit seedy and down market.

Then I downloaded a popular betting app on my phone… Lo and behold I started betting a lot more, friends asked me for tips, I received emails and texts of offers from the betting company which are advertised heavily and they were very friendly…

When we look at drugs, we talk about the stepping-stones and gateway drugs, somebody has a bit of pot and depending on their personality they move up the ranking until they try the hard stuff. I believe gambling works the same way. The National Lottery is a gateway and, please don’t get me wrong, the funding that goes to good causes is fantastic but Camelot do very well out of it too, perhaps rather too well. How many times have you conversed with friends and family about what you’d do if you won the lottery? For what? Approximately a one in fourteen million chance. Yet people pin their hopes on this, pray for it even… but this is a false deity and one which is destined to leave you unfulfilled and unhappy with your life.

Sajid Javid MP who heads up The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, formed policy to “Regulate gambling in Great Britain to make sure it’s run responsibly and contributes to economic growth”. The intentions are honourable; after all people have the choice as to whether they gamble or not, but I’m afraid this is a blunt instrument especially where online gambling is concerned. The detail for this is flawed, how do we regulate companies whose main aim is to lure you into gambling your hard-earned cash?

The policy detail also states that it aims to “make sure gambling is fair and open”; it is certainly open but is it fair ? With the betting app I used I could bet on virtual football games, I could lay large sums on roulette, blackjack… I’m sure people do and I’m sure the betting companies softwares are fair, I mean they would never dream of producing gambling softwares which are stacked in their favour? There are so many transactions going on at one time, so many game variations, and with so many now based outside of the U.K this makes it harder to regulate. The “Big Bankroll” a.k.a Arnold Rothstein would have been proud and he fixed the 1919 World Series and got away with it.

Our U.K Government would argue that this is a service industry which produces tax revenue, just over £2 billion from the 2013/14 tax year. It creates employment – yes, but it is morally corrupt and I can’t see how in the long run it will benefit our society, children growing up now will see it as the norm. After all an awful lot of football clubs are sponsored by betting companies.

Gambling Chips

A report by the Scottish Government in 2006, cited that individuals with gambling issues often experience a range of other problems, including drug and alcohol and mental health problems in what are called “co-morbid” relationships. The Australian Productivity Commission found that between five and ten people are affected by every individual who is a problem gambler, that’s spouses, children, other family members, friends, co-workers and employers and estimated that gambling is approximatively involved in 1600 divorces annually. That is a lot of collateral damage and bear in mind this information dates back to 2006.  What will be the future financial and social costs to our Government, has anyone thought that far ahead ?

In a recent report by the Association of British Bookmakers, “The Truth about Betting Shops and Gaming Machines” (April 2013). A predictably rather one-sided report that talks of individual responsibility, informed choice and social responsibility. The report states that “gambling problem is about the individual and not the product” and that “a reduction of stakes and prizes will be an ineffective and very blunt instrument if applied to gambling” – perhaps the removal of the product might help altogether then? Sadly, with the internet hoovering up customers people would be gambling on overseas sites, unless of course our Government blocked them.

I want online gambling and its advertising fully reviewed, investigated and properly and thoroughly regulated by our Government. I want TV adverts for betting banned from our screens. I would like football clubs to review the impact of being sponsored by a betting company, I don’t think it is fair for children to be exposed to this. Televised games are showered with adverts as if it is okay, these adverts are funny, engaging, they’re a laugh… don’t worry it’s fine everyone else is gambling, so come and join in with the party.

Iceland, the supermarket chain, have now developed their own gambling app, so not content with selling food to a certain demographic, they’d now like to start tapping into their salary as well and of course the less money you have, the more likely you are to have to shop at… Cynical I know but it is true.

I’m afraid that what we are seeing is the normalisation of gambling in our society. We need to wake up to this before it gets out of hand. We have to stop and look because the warning signs are all around us. If we don’t act now we could be left facing the fallout of huge financial and social costs for years to come; personally it’s the social costs I’m more concerned about.

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