THE BLOG
16/07/2018 16:40 BST | Updated 16/07/2018 16:40 BST

The Real Winner Of This World Cup Is… The Bookies

Amongst the positivity and optimism for our football team, I am really worried for the volume of gambling adverts on television

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV via Getty Images

Now France has won and the World Cup has ended, this hopefully won’t be seen as a miserable reactionary piece to a failed England World Cup campaign. After all as Jane Austen said: “The sanguine expectation of happiness is happiness itself.” So we will continue to enjoy and expect it to “come home.”

But amongst the truly enjoyable positivity and optimism for our football team, I am really worried for the volume of gambling adverts on television and other media, at a rate of one at least every minute this summer.

If it wasn’t an advert of a smug priapic man having just enjoyed his now “available over the counter” viagra, pretty much almost every advert was for a “free bet” if you were to throw your gambling virginity to the wind and join an online gambling website.

Visuals of celebrities telling you to score big in real time if you can predict the next goal, as well as highly stylised visuals of young attractive alpha males using their mobile phones to place their next bet, don’t show the pain behind the results and crushing financial and emotional losses that occur subsequently.

There is no happiness to be found here, only pain and destruction of real lives.

Gambling adverts are everywhere - you must have noticed them, they are online, on TV, in between your catch up programming, in papers. Seductive, insidious, and dangerous.

We worry about our children having too much sugar in their drinks, so we slap a sugar tax on drinks.

But since New Labour’s deregulated gambling in 2005, it has made it easier for gambling companies to grab the attention of teenagers with their newly-found employment and access to real money for the first time in their lives.

I have seen people admitted to hospital for gambling addiction. They were suicidal after having to tell their loved ones they have lost their money, and their loved one’s money. Properties re-mortgaged, lies told, the usual stories, you can imagine. Gambling addiction is now a recognised illness in the DSM-V, the diagnostic manual of disease.

Just think about that for a minute. Our health service is on its knees but we have people in hospital because they got themselves so unwell due to legalised gambling that they were a danger to themselves.

Taxes recouped from the massive gambling companies to then be spent on medical care for those that can no longer help themselves from the burden of their shame. Madness by definition. We are allowing this to happen, it’s self destruction.

At a time when I have never witnessed crime so high on our streets, the suicide rates increasing, and the gap between poverty and wealth ever increasing, this is a serious problem that affects everyone. I don’t believe in coincidences.

There is literally no barrier to falling into the gambling companies’ hands. You can gamble on the internet with money that does not feel real because you never feel it or see it. They are just numbers on a screen that you play with, until you are overdrawn and find yourself in serious trouble. Celebrity endorsements are totally unethical and nauseating. It’s pure manipulation, we look up to our heroes.

Well if they say it’s ok, it must be right?

Slapping a slogan of “When the fun stops, stop!” does very little if anything to help stop problem gamblers. It’s time for an urgent and serious rethink about the Government’s policy on gambling and gambling advertising.

It’s having a far deeper effect on people’s mental health and resulting criminal behaviours in society than you can ever imagine, because it’s a very secret type of addiction, growing in women as well as in men.

Do you know many of your friends or family that have won and made a living from gambling? I don’t know a single one. And if you say yes, I would tell you that they are either lying or it’s a matter of time before they lose.

The gambling companies are not posting profits in the billions because people are making a living from gambling. The bookies know you will bet and win at least once (which we know is the worst thing that can happen to you) because then you will come back to win more.

Inevitably you will lose at some point, and then psychologically you will chase your losses. Your bank roll can never match theirs and so the game never ends until you lose. Game over.

We know that for a lot of problem gamblers, which we now estimate to be in the millions in the UK, it comes with associated problems such as anxiety, depression and other forms of mental illness. When you add shame and loss of financial resources, you are playing a dangerous game with all of our minds.

We don’t have the mental health provision to cope with the problems that exist as they are, why are we adding to it?

By the way those “free” bets you see on all the advertisements, they aren’t really free. You can rarely withdraw any winnings until you have also deposited collateral funds. The devil, as always is in the detail. Nothing is ever truly free.