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The Influence of Irresponsible Gambling

This week is responsible gambling week. So, when you are passing a well-known bookmaker such as William Hill, Coral, Ladbrokes etc, replacing the usual odds of the weeks’ events, lies a sign that reads “let’s talk about responsible gambling.”

Ironically, at the start of this so-called ‘week of responsible gambling’ the sports minister Tracey Crouch resigned due to the delay on Fixed Odds Betting Terminal (FOBT) machines from April 2019 to October 2019 by pro gambling MP’s – MP’s who receive quite healthy sums from these said bookmakers. For example, Philip Davies received £3,204.44 from Ladbrokes, William Hill and Sky Bet in the past year alone, as well as the income received to the treasury in sight of this delay which is roughly £400 million.

Now, what are fixed odd betting terminal machines you may ask? These are machines that can be played on by anyone, that require no skill, focusing solely on the luck of the player – which means anyone can get hooked. When you’re in high street bookmakers, staff will approach you offering a free demo that provides a false sense of reality that you will potentially win lots of money. Although this is the case to some extent, you are more commonly faced with a loss than a win which more than explains the £1.8billion profits raked in by bookmakers in 2017.

FOBT’s are limited to four per shop and are seen more commonly opening near pubs and in the most deprived areas, making problem gamblers easily targeted with the mindset that they cannot lose. FOBT’s allow a stake of £100 every minute making it far too easy for vulnerable people to make massive losses within minutes. Whereas in contrast, multiple professional gamblers have their accounts restricted by these bookmakers during losses. They are the crack cocaine of the gambling industry! 

I’ve personally witnessed close friends and family members get hooked on FOBT’s and it’s a hard process to get off, especially with the number of bookmakers open and the pubs they are opening beside. Paddy Power actually lease half of a pub in the Baillieston, Glasgow. Many a time I have walked in drunk and wasted money I never would’ve before because of how easily accessible it is. It is literally two steps to get in from the pub and not surprisingly the exact same situation is mirrored throughout the country with people betting away their money then waking up and not even remembering it. Why is it you when you approach a club, they’ll reject you if you are too drunk but bookmakers welcome you with open arms? 

Now, the influence of the bookmakers on sports such as Horse Racing (interest of mine) and greyhound racing. These two sports are heavily reliant on bookmaker’s money through a betting levy, and the fact they are in bed with the over FOBT’s make me sick. Press such the Racing Post basically printing about the death of these two sports if FOBT’s were to go is shameful and disrespectful to the people who have taken their lives due to them. These sports were around long before FOBT’s and will continue to be when they’re gone. The fact the bookmakers have so much leeway with the BHA and GBGB allows them to pressure the governing bodies into putting on more races – particularly greyhound races – where there are on average over one hundred races a day. Then with smart phones it’s so easy to play every race, which only amplifies how dangerous it can get as when you start to develop the habit you then start chasing your losses. How is this deemed responsible to have that much content in one day?

It’s said that there are two million people with gambling problems in the UK alone, and I am one of them! However, I’m quite glad I can admit that now after so long of denying it to myself. I started off with what would be perceived as so called harmless £5-win accumulator bets at the weekend with sometimes the odd horse. Fast forward four years, I staked over £28,000 from October 2017-2018. That’s just over £75 a day! It’s so easy to get hooked due to the amount of content and sports that is available to stream through these sites resulting in developing the habit of betting when you’re bored. And of course sometimes I did get big wins and it was brilliant, but the more the habit sets in, the more it just becomes playing money. I could easily win £500 and not have it three hours later. It ends up not being fun anymore, especially online.

It feels like it isn’t real at times. First, it’s a tenner then before you known it you are staking £100 and then you are £400 down and you need it back so you maybe do £400 to win £800 then you’re £800 down. Then the next deposit you try to make your card gets declined and you’ve ran out of money. 

I myself enter a trance like state at times. I lose all sense of reality and end up fixated with trying to get it back. Sometimes you do win it back and feel like you’ve achieved something and it honestly at times feels more satisfying than winning and that’s a very worrying part. 

These bookmakers say they are looking out for you? How did it take me three year at playing at such high-volume stakes before they intervened? Gambling has taken me down a dark place on more than one occasion. It is honestly the most overlooked addiction in the world and its becoming so much more prevalent with young men. At the start, it is a bit of fun but when it ends up wrecking relationships and your bank balance where is the fun?

The good old campaign “When the fun stops? STOP!” speaks volumes. They do not want you to stop, they want you to do it more. Every sporting event you watch the first advert they usually go for is a betting one – don’t let them get you hooked! Don’t let them get a grip of you the way they got a grip of me and many others. The stress and the hassle people are put through due to these profit-making machines will always be relevant unless attitudes change.

By Connor Friel 

You can read more Ungagged Writing here or listen to a range of left views on our podcast 

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