A long time ago my father said to me 'if a man says he makes his living by gambling, you know one thing...he's lying.'
In those days if you wanted to bet you went to 'the bookies'. These were dinghy last chance saloons lined with desperate men, who 'fluttered' like moths at a burning painful flame. I remember being struck by the communality of the stubby pencil attached to a string in a booth at the bookies and when you were voting. Both times hedging bets for the future.
Since the inception of the National Lottery gambling has rapidly become acceptable and part of our everyday lifestyle. This has spawned a multimillion pound industry, very cleverly dividing us into gender gambling, woman using bingo, men betting on sport. Having a flutter seems to now be acceptable, and in moderation it is, but the social problems which have always been associated with gambling are increasing rapidly too.
According to the Office for National Statistics in 2013 the average household spent £166 on gambling in the year. This may seem like a small amount, but it is actually huge and increasing year on year.
One in twenty men aged between 16 and 24 are at moderate risk or are already considered to be problem gamblers, according to a Health and Social Care Information Centre report.
I may be as judgemental as my father on this matter. I find it difficult to just dismiss it as a bit of fun. I work in areas of high social need and I see it as a very corrupting and corrosive addiction which damages families. For me the way in which gambling is advertised is hugely manipulative and deliberately plugs into base emotions and needs.
The television adverts, particularly prevalent during the World Cup, slice the population in half. They portray men as loners or members of a pack, and the women happily gambling socially. Men are targeted very specifically, from being extolled by Ray Winstone to bet in-play 'Naaawww', to being rubbed down and greased by a boxing trainer, there is nothing subtle about these campaigns. They know you are hooked so they don't have to be that attractive or inviting. Betting on football is portrayed as something a 'man' does, it is almost part of the sport. It's not, it's what losers do.
Two of the worst adverts portray couples. One has a couple in the supermarket, the man pushing the trolley as his partner goes to collect an item. Whilst she is away he furtively bets on his phone, and then starts to shake uncontrollably to a samba beat. She returns and stares disapprovingly at him, he affects a weak smile, and shrugs his shoulders in resignation of his urge. Of course there is a happy ending, chaos rules in the supermarket.
For me the worst advert depicts a woman returning from her prestigious job to be greeted by her partner stood looking gormless in the kitchen. He is obviously addicted and can think of nothing else, he is desperate to infect her with his disease. She opens the fridge and there is no food, but there is a gambling opportunity. She shuts the fridge door and is confronted by him pouring gambling balls from the kitchen tap and shaking them at her...WHAT! He then pursues her across the living room, before they both finally sit tightly-strung on the sofa watching sport. Hunger and thirst forgotten, they are replete.
So, please, don't bet on how many corners there will be in the second half, don't lie about how much money you've made. If you want to give money away, give it to a charity which does good works, give it to a friend who wants to start up a business, give it to a homeless person. That way you are giving money away but remaining a winner, not a loser.