More needs to be done on dangerous gambling advertising

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Recent research by the Gambling Commission revealed that gambling addiction affects more than 430,000 people in the UK – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg according to some experts. Whilst online casinos and slots can be addictive, it’s the sports betting adverts that are hitting the headlines more so, what with in-play betting ads shown during daytime television. Charles Ritchie, the CEO of the Gambling with Lives charity revealed that his 24-year old son Jack Ritchie was out in Vietnam in 2017, when he sent a worrying and life-changing email to his parents. In the email, Jack claimed that his gambling addiction was “happening again”, before seding one final message; “I’m not coming back from this one.” Less than half an hour later, Jack had taken his own life.

The Gambling with Lives

The Gambling with Lives charity was set up after Charles took his own life and it aims to support families of young men who have taken their own lives because of gambling. Claiming that football had a huge impact on his son’s life, Charles believes it was this that contributed to his death. The number of football gambling ads being shown during live sporting events has caused shockwaves recently, which has led to the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) announcing that it will initiate a whistle-to-whistle ban on gambling ads being shown during live events, from 2019.

Sad Comments

Speaking to BBC Sport, Charles Ritchie said; “All of the young men who took their own lives due to gambling addiction were encouraged to gamble as part of their love of football. Although many of them started on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals or other arcade machines, almost all of them ended up betting online. Sports betting and in-play betting was an integral part of what they did. They all bought into the notion of it being a bit of fun and an added dimension to the game, and maybe things start like that. But it’s a deep and serious addiction, and in-game betting is one of the most dangerous forms of betting there is.”

William Hill CEO Philip Bowcock added his comments on the impact of sports betting and suicide: “I am concerned about the volume and tone of gambling advertising and its potential impact on a generation of young people who are being exposed.”

Gambling Statistics

Gambling with Lives CEO Charles wants sport with football in particular to ban gambling ads completely! A whistle-to-whistle ban is still not good enough in his opinion and would like gambling to be treated the same way as smoking and alcohol.

The charity website lists some shocking statistics;

  • There are 430,000 adult gambling addicts in the UK, with a further 2 million “at risk”
  • 55,000 young people aged 11-16 are addicted to gambling
  • Research in the UK and Hong Kong found that 4-11% of suicides were related to gambling … equivalent to 250-650 deaths per year in the UK
  • Gambling addicts are 3-4 times more likely to attempt to kill themselves than other types of addict
  • Over half of people playing FOBTs are addicted to gambling or at risk
  • Nearly half of people playing casino games online are addicted or at risk
  • 9% of people gambling online are addicted or at risk
  • Only 33% of people think that gambling is fair and can be trusted; 71% think that it is dangerous to family life
  • The industry made nearly £14 billion gross profit in 15/16 … but contributed just £8m to pay for research, education and treatment
  • Just 2% of addicts were able to access treatment – compared to 15-20% for drugs and alcohol addictions
  • The GamCare treatment network is not linked in any way to the NHS, so that 90% of those who receive treatment are self-referrals.

“Gambling with Lives was set up by the families and friends of young men who have taken their own lives as a direct result of gambling. These were all very normal, bright, popular and happy young men who had great futures ahead of them … gambling was their only problem. Their deaths were very sudden – “out of the blue” with no warning. They were not the result of massive gambling debts, rather what gambling had done to their hearts and their heads. No one knows how many deaths there are related to gambling each year; the only research indicates that there may be between 250 and 650 gambling related suicides every year in the UK … a minimum of one every working day.”

Access to Support

Tim Miller, executive director at the Gambling Commission, said: “It is important that those struggling with gambling are able to access support when they need it. But a focus on preventing harm in the first place is equally important [and] that’s why we will continue to take actions to require gambling companies to spot those being harmed by gambling and step in to protect them.”

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: “We are cutting the maximum fixed odds betting terminal stake to £2 and introducing increased safeguards on online gambling. On top of that we have brought in tougher rules on betting adverts and ensured the betting industry funds a new multi-million pound responsible gambling campaign.”

Block on Gambling Ads

It’s safe to say that more is being done now to curb gambling ads, what with an invention coming to Sky and Virgin from 2019. Subscribers to the major satellite broadcasters can choose to put a block on gambling ads being shown anytime of the day or night! Technology already built into the television boxes will allow customers to block ads completely – so when a gambling ad was due to be shown, another ad will be shown in its place.