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July 11, 2019

Gambling Addiction

The subject of gambling addiction has never been far away from the news headlines in the UK recently with gambling addiction stories suggesting that close to half a million Brits suffer from gambling addiction. The government has its own Gambling Commission responsible for the licensing and regulation of gambling companies wanting to operate in the UK and it  publishes an annual report looking at the current trends concerning our gambling habits. Most recent surveys found that 46% of respondents had participated in some form of gambling in the previous 4 weeks.

However, the report was also able to estimate that 0.7% of the UK population (roughly 462,000) were problem gamblers based on those surveyed. Problem gambling as defined by the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) is defined by the respondent’s answers to 3 key questions based on their gambling habits of the last 12 months. They were asked:

·         In the last 12 months, have you bet more than you could really afford to lose?

·         Over the last 12 months, have people criticised your betting or told you that you have a gambling problem whether or not you thought it is true?

·         In the last 12 months, have you felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble?

The Gambling Commission report contains a wide range of stats determining people’s gambling habits and because of this, it’s quite easy to get lost in the numbers. A couple of headline figures for example though, were that you’re more likely to suffer from gambling addiction because you are male and aged in your 20’s to early 30’s, and 53% of those surveyed had seen at least one gambling advert in the last week. 45% saying it was because of this that they gambled.

So what are people betting on?

The scope of the report covered people’s gambling habits ie what they were betting on and percentages were given in several categories including:

 ·         National Lottery (28%)

·         Other Lotteries (11%)

·         Bingo (2.6%)

·         Football Pools (1.4%)

·         Horse Racing (3.8%)

·         Dog Racing (0.8%)

·         Sports Betting (6.6%)

·         Betting on other Events (1.0%)

·         Virtual Dog or Horse Racing (0.3%)

·         Spread Betting (0.3%)

·         Casino Games (1.6%)

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Casinos and Bookmakers

We need to be looking at the means of gambling that the lesser amount of people are participating in to find where the gambling addict sits in all these stats. And we need look no further than the activities that are instantly accessible.

For the same reasons as the National Lottery and football pools, I cannot imagine a gambling addict having a major problem going to the races daily. Yes they may well do that occasionally, but they’re far more likely to visit the bookmakers to get their quick hit. Factor in the FOBT machines in the betting shops, and this is where the problem will lie for your typical gambling addict who focuses on betting on horse racing or other sporting events.

A visit to the bookmakers is far less likely to involve additional costs such as travel expenses, entry fees or food and drink associated with a day at the races. This is all money that in the eyes of a gambler can be better spent actually gambling. Bookmakers also have far more potential to deliver quick wins or quick losses with minimal effort. So the problem for gambling addicts therefore boils down to accessibility and gambling today has never been more accessible.

It was recently reported in the national news that William Hill were closing 700 betting shops which is a clear indication that the shift now is to online operations. Why take the time to go to a shop when you can simply go online and gamble in the privacy of your own home? It’s not yet clear if the recent restrictions placed on betting shop FOBT machines would have anything to do with the closures (as they predicted several months ago) but this is something unlikely to trouble William Hill with their online operations where the restrictions do not apply.

Advertising

It is also really clear from newspaper, television, and radio advertising that gambling operators are focusing more and more on their websites. Recent reports suggest that around 18% of all television adverts are now gambling related. It isn’t clear how gambling addiction levels in the UK are affected by this but it’s not hard to see a link. UK daytime television programmes are often sponsored by online bingo sites which are permitted pre-watershed. However, many of these operators also incorporate online casinos within their brand. Post watershed gambling adverts are from full on casino operators whilst commercial radio appears free from such restrictions advertising all forms of gambling regardless of time of day.

Certain TV companies have recently attempted to limit the gambling adverts in one commercial break during sporting events. However, this seems pointless when a lot of the big football clubs are sponsored by gambling companies. Their players give interviews post match with that sponsorship clearly visible against a back drop of betting advertising. All of this is visible to children.

Pitch side advertising boards featuring gambling operators are clearly visible throughout football matches meaning there’s at least 90 minutes continual advertising. So we shouldn’t be just targeting actual commercial breaks. We need to be considering that children have been exposed to this advertising throughout their childhood and many are now reaching the legal age where they can sign up for accounts on their 18th birthday. There is a whole generation already primed and programmed with gambling culture and their generation is already conditioned into doing everything online.

The UK’s very liberal approach to all things gambling in recent years has created a huge problem and the proof of that is the necessity for the NHS to open its first ever gambling clinic for young people. Personally, I think that speaks volumes of the problem we now face, and certainly better than any Gambling Commission report ever could. It also highlights a clear need for more education and awareness on the subject.

How has gambling affected you? Let me know here. Or for further reading, see how my problem began, how it changed my life, and why you can never win

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