This September the UK’s top gambling and addiction support organisation GambleAware hailed the success of a report that showed public recognition of the institution had increased to 43%, reflecting the improving awareness of gambling abuse. Yet with endless adverts on TV sports channels, the dominance of online in-play betting, and innumerable possibilities of what to bet on within a single match, is enough really being done to tackle sports gambling at its roots?
After having settled into my new home in Canley ready for the new academic year to begin, equipped with the student-luxury of BT Sport TV, I couldn’t help but notice the sheer number of betting advertisements that seem to run continuously in-between matches and during half-time. After being subjected to Ray Winstone bark out what odds were on offer for the sixth time that afternoon, I realised how deeply ingrained in our sports culture the online betting industry truly is.
In fact, the UK gambling industry is worth a colossal £13.8bn and employs over 100,000 people across the country – many of whom work in the marketing departments of these betting companies. Marketing plays a major role in the success of these companies as advertising now penetrates the home environment virtually through pop-ups in free mobile apps, banners in websites, and never-ending TV adverts. Most live football score apps will now be linked to some betting agency or another that provides odds and links to the agency itself. This can be witnessed in the partnership between Bet365 and LiveScore – an app downloaded over 14 million times on iOS.
The UK gambling industry is worth a colossal £13.8bn and employs over 100,000 people across the country
As a result, a whopping 97% of all gambling is carried out at home making it easy and convenient to place bets when and wherever. Admittedly, recently enforced regulations have forced betting companies to finish their adverts with the GambleAware message ‘When the fun stops, STOP!’ However, this doesn’t appear to go far enough and I am dubious about how effective the measure truly is. These adverts run during prime-time and daytime television, in full view of children and young people more susceptible to being influenced and enticed by the guileful marketing strategies – most of which involve a clichéd narrative of a lucky gambler winning big after a last minute wondergoal.
Similarly, in recent times we have observed the rise of an increasingly popular bet in-game ability that allows you to withdraw your stake at any point during the game. Perhaps a seemingly sensible idea to any outsider, yet this new betting culture can in fact exacerbate the effects of gambling. This gives an illusion of increased control that, in reality, makes the player feel more comfortable betting that makes him more likely to place more bets. Also, in a type of double-bluff complex, players may be more likely to not pull out of a bet for a fear of missing out on potential recoup that only risk and daring can yield. This problem worsened by the luring gimmick of ‘accumulator’ bets, adding another layer to the dilemma that ultimately stops people pulling out of bets, not to mention the fact that you can now bet on virtually any aspect of a match from the number of corners to whether an overweight man will eat a pie…
In the area surrounding the University of Warwick, the gambling culture is evident with five bookies in Leamington Spa and 34 in Coventry
In the area surrounding the University of Warwick, the gambling culture is evident with five bookies in Leamington Spa and 34 in Coventry, reflecting the wider UK phenomenon which homes 8,788 high-street betting shops. It is therefore of utmost importance to address the problem among students, particularly our new freshers who, with their first taste of freedom backed up by a student loan with a substantial overdraft, are vulnerable to the temptations of sports betting.
A study by the ICM revealed that 80% of young people have gambled at some point in their life, yet this risk of developing addiction is low down on the agenda of typical student problems. Unfortunately, despite some progress in this area, there is still much to do in removing the stigma that surrounds gambling. Looking at relationships for example, Amelia Gentleman, Social Affairs correspondent for the Guardian, notes that many people will not admit to their issue in the same way they would with alcoholism as it would be perceived as off-putting and the victim would not be trusted with money. The culture that this gambling culture of tense, anxious and frustrating viewing does not allow the gambler to enjoy or appreciate the sport they are watching. People’s love for sport is the reason for starting gambling; but their enthusiasm is soon warped into exasperation.
People’s love for sport is the reason for starting gambling; but their enthusiasm is soon warped into exasperation
So, the question is how to go about making the necessary changes in society to address this problem. Censorship on TV to watershed hours would be a positive start, yet this would still fall short of effective impact given that children would still be subjected to betting advertising at live sports events. Take football shirts: in this season’s Premier League (the most viewed league in the world) nine out of the twenty teams have a shirt sponsorship deal with a betting agency.
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson recently announced that the party would legislate on a ban preventing betting companies from advertising on football shirts. He declared: “Shirt sponsorship sends out a message that football clubs don’t take problem gambling among their own fans seriously enough. It puts gambling brands in front of fans of all ages, not just at matches but on broadcasts and highlights packages on both commercial television and the BBC.”
Watson has encouraged the FA the follow through on this ban themselves after praising their proactive action in ending their association with Betfred, reportedly at a loss of £12m. There are at least positive signs that Britain’s sports gambling epidemic is beginning to be taken seriously.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised or would like to know more, here is a link to the Warwick Counselling Service page on Gambling which provides great advice and links to many useful websites that offer support: