At last, a politician talking sense and making the morally right decision. Tom Watson MP, Shadow Secretary for Culture, this week unveiled plans under a Labour government to radically shake up the gambling industry.
Headline measures announced by the party include the banning of credit cards for gambling transactions, a curtailment on in-game betting ads and a levy to ensure that gambling companies pay more into the pot to fund education, research and crucial treatment.
This is music to my ears. The industry whines and moans about job losses and cuts to their profits, however I believe the gambling industry has been profiting from misery for far too many years now.
Young people aged 11-15 are betting online and being enticed into the world of gambling through exciting advertisements, in-game betting and the constant bombardments of gambling adverts around sports games. What kind of a society are we living in where you watch sports games only to gamble? Where is the fun and entertainment in that?
There are thought to be around 430,000 gambling addicts in this country according to the latest Gambling Commission statistics, but I believe the real figure for this could be much higher.
Arguments from the other side today included Sky Betting and Gaming CEO Richard Flint saying: “A blanket ban removes a key incentive for operators to get a UK gambling licence and therefore could leave UK customers more vulnerable to disreputable operators.” This is absolute rubbish in my opinion, PR-spun messages to promote the interests of his business and his shareholders. The industry’s self-funded campaign group the Senet Group kept quiet today as advertising trade bodies let rip. On Victoria Derbyshire’s BBC2 programme, the Advertising Association said that a ban on in-game advertising would hit the advertising industry hard and that this would be a catastrophic consequence.
The key here is that gambling addiction is a mental health problem, gambling affects the endorphin in your brain in the same way drug and alcohol addiction does. Therefore why is there only one problem gambling clinic on the NHS in the country? Why are GPs not aware of this? Why is more treatment not available?
I am personally glad that Labour are looking at this issue through this lens. My dad went to prison for two years for fraud, after stealing tens of thousands of pounds from his employer to fund his out of control gambling addiction. He racked up almost £500,000 of debt through credit cards, payday loans, even remortgaging the family home. He did it all in secret in the grip of a gambling addiction; with no help or support at all for his problem.
Here lies the problem. Society doesn’t see gambling in the same way as other addictions, but it needs to. We need the Conservative party to take a leaf out of Tom Watson’s book and get on with implementing their FOBT reforms so dangerous spend can no longer take place on the high street. We need them to get their public health consultation into action and begin tackling the online gambling industry before we have a gambling epidemic on our hands which will never be cured for decades to come.