Thursday, 20 September 2018

Labour is Right to Propose Curbs on Gambling

The Labour party is set to publish plans for curbs on the gambling industry, ahead of its conference, which starts on Sunday in Liverpool. The policies are intended to reduce the number of problem gamblers in the UK, estimated to be 430,000. According to the Guardian, Labour will ban the use of credit cards, place limits on gambling adverts attached to live sporting events and ban gambling companies from advertising on players’ football shirts.

Research by the Guardian during this summer’s football World Cup found that viewers were exposed to almost 90 minutes of betting adverts during the tournament, prompting concern about the impact on children. The Gambling Commission said earlier this year that it was weighing up the merits of a ban on credit card betting, while the UK’s leading gambling charity, GambleAware, has previously backed the measure.

In my youth, gambling for the mass of people was restricted to horse racing, and to a lesser extent greyhound racing. Betting shops used to be very drab places, with no televisions or refreshments allowed, and hours of opening tightly controlled. The laws around gambling have been liberalized over the years by both Tory and Labour governments, but I think it has now gone too far.

Gambling has grown into many other sports now, especially football and cricket, and there are a host of online gambling websites, featuring poker and other casino games. People can gamble on these sites at any time of the day or night, and could well be the worse for alcohol or drugs. Fortunes can be lost at the click of a mouse. 

I don’t have any interest in gambling myself, which I think is because I hate losing money. I might have a bet on the Grand National horse race once a year, but not always. I don’t even do the National Lottery.

But I’ve also seen what it can do to compulsive gamblers. I have known people who liked to bet their rent money on a horse or greyhound race, they said because of the extra adrenaline rush induced from not being able to afford to lose the money. Having said all that, I wouldn’t ban gambling altogether, it can be harmless fun to many people, but the industry needs tightening up.

Something that has always occurred to me about people who gamble regularly, is that they never admit that they have lost money. They say they are breaking even, or just about up, or winning a lot. This doesn’t make sense when compared to the multi-million pound gambling industry, someone must be losing, but it never seems to be the people I talk to. It is other people who are ‘mugs’ who are losing, they say. I am always reminded of the old saying, ‘you never see a poor bookie.’   

The football on Talk Sport Radio, even has betting embedded in the commentary of the match itself, while the game is going on. The commentator will be describing the action, and then suddenly will inform you that such a player is 2/1 to score the next goal etc with Betfred or whoever. This not only spoils the commentary but always makes me feel uneasy about the intrusion. Commentators should be describing the game, not slipping in adverts for gambling companies. This type of advertising should be stopped.

So, Labour is right to call for regulation of the gambling industry, and not before time. Gambling addiction in the UK is becoming a big problem. It can lead not only to impoverishment for people, but family break ups, homes lost and even suicides. It is time to end this exploitation of people by huge corporate gambling firms who are profiting at the expense of people’s health and well-being.

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