Gambling on welfare of fans

If I go to the match with my kids, pies and a trip to the club shop are always involved.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 5:00 pm
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On grown-up days out, more than the odd pint is always an essential part of the fun, but never enough that I would struggle to remember the scoreline.

Rituals are very important to sport lovers and, for many, this includes having a flutter as any self-respecting granny would say. Although I do occasionally put a bet on, be it at a match or during infrequent visits to races and nearly always on Grand National Day, it has never been a prerequisite for my enjoyment of sport.

For millions it is though and many of these match or race day punters will tell you it is a bit of fun, something they can switch on or off, depending on whether they have the funds for this particular pastime. Latest figures show Britons spend the best part of £15bn on gambling.

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Sadly, this is not the case and in the UK alone there are at least 400,000 people who are considered to be problem gamblers with another half a million at moderate risk of becoming addicted to placing a bet.

These figures should be of real concern to society but genuine change has been slow to come. It was recently announced the use of credit cards on gambling websites would be banned this year, but while welcome, it shouldn’t really have taken until 2020 for this to happen.

As shown by the recent embarrassing revelation that rights to some FA Cup games had been sold to a gambling firm’s subscription-only website, money talks in sport and bookmakers have a huge and lucrative influence over the national game.

I have never understood why there is not more of a fuss made about bookmaker adverts on television. To me, there are real parallels to be drawn between tobacco and gambling - both of which are potentially bad for one’s health, yet only one is subject to an advertising ban.

The current ‘health warnings’ on gambling ads don’t appear to serve as a great deterrent. Gambling brings pleasure to millions of people but more really does need to be done to recognise the harm it can do to a significant number.