We would be lying if we said we enjoyed seeing gambling adverts before every single match, however it is now common practice. At what point do we stop putting up with it?
League One club Bolton Wanderers have made headlines recently for the right reasons as they have agreed to cease all gambling activity within the football club. Why? Bolton chairman Sharon Brittan told BBC Sport that “problem gambling ruins lives” and this move is to show support and solidarity to those that may have been affected. Further to this, the club has also confirmed that betting kiosks will be removed from the ground so punters cannot place a bet there going forward. The move was made more astonishing when we think that Bolton Wanderers were just hours from going out of existence back in 2019. The club remains adamant that no affiliation with gambling companies will take place going forward, further underlining the club’s new found financial stability.
From 2018, it has been confirmed that 280,000 people in the UK are problem gamblers or gambling addicts, and that only 3% of these actually sought help around the same period. To put that into perspective, this means that 271,000 of that figure may well be in denial as to their problem and continue to gamble on a regular basis. A Yougov survey from late 2020 seemed to confirm that this figure seems to be much higher and may have more than trebled to around 1.4 million. But it begs the question, who are these new problem gamblers and why has there been a surge between 2018 and late 2020?
Well that may be difficult to answer. Gambling advertisements before big games are more and more common, not to mention signage on advertising hoardings at grounds across the UK. The pandemic could also be blamed, with many perhaps citing boredom as a reason to gamble, thus developing a problem. Data collected from the Gambling Commission (the British body responsible for gambling regulation) showed that in 2020, online sports betting increased by 88% and online poker by 53% compared to 2019. The pandemic would have made those at risk of developing gambling addiction more vulnerable.
Brittan seemed to further confirm these statistics, before telling BBC Sport: “We as an industry must do more and, through our work with Bolton Wanderers in the Community, Bolton Wanderers Football Club will support outreach programmes for those who experience gambling problems.”
What can be done to stop this issue spiralling out of control?
It is estimated that £1.2bn every year is set aside to help treat those suffering with gambling addiction. Is this enough? It is measly when you consider statistics from the gambling commission that confirm the gambling industry made £5.9bn in just six months between April to September 2020, and only took a 0.6% loss during the worst months of the pandemic. It seems to confirm further that profit from people’s loss of earnings and potential misery and despair is the gambling industries’ modus operandi and their activities seem to be similar to that of a parasite.
What is a fact is that more needs to be done to introduce further regulation. When you think about it, we must see a gambling advert every time the football cuts to an advertising break. And even after every round of a 12 round boxing bout. In July 2021, Conservative MP Tracey Crouch wrote an open letter to Oliver Dowden, who until September was minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. A part of this open letter discussed a possible ongoing review of the gambling act. The part of the letter read:
“Although not within the scope of the terms of reference of my Review, a number of supporter
groups were very concerned about the high levels of gambling advertising in and around football,
and the impact that this had on supporters, players, and also the game. I am aware a separate
review of the Gambling Act is currently underway which is covering gambling advertising. I would
recommend that the Gambling Review hears the concerns of football supporters on this issue, and
that they have an opportunity to submit evidence to that review.”
This ‘review’ is ongoing but it is positive that talks are being made between politicians and maybe at some point in the near future we may well see some movement on this.