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Bet your life

War Cry comment on the gambling industry

Campaigners are calling for a reduction in the maximum stake

BET there’ll be a gambling advert at half-time. Barely a Sky Sports ad break goes by without armchair fans being invited to pick up their mobile and have a punt. From score predictions and casino games to bingo and slots, laddishly guised Lady Luck invites would-be punters to tap-tap-boom their hard-earned cash away. Oh, and coyly warns ‘when the fun stops, stop’. And that’s the problem – there are many who can’t stop.

Last week, the National Problem Gambling Clinic reported an increase in the number of gambling addicts who struggle with betting on mobiles. In 2013, the clinic recorded that 24 per cent of its patients had trouble with mobile gambling. This year the figure stands at 63 per cent, making it the most addictive form of gambling among the clinic’s patients.

There are other ways to gamble irresponsibly.

This month, the Government is due to release a report on the use of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), the colourful slot machines found in the likes of bookies, where a punter could wager £100 every 20 seconds and lose thousands in an hour. Campaigners are calling for a reduction in the maximum stake.

In its report of gambling behaviour for 2015, the Gambling Commission, the industry’s regulatory body, defines problem gambling as ‘gambling to a degree that compromises, disrupts or damages family, personal or recreational pursuits’.

Such behaviour is most prevalent among men aged 25 to 34 and is most carried out by ‘those who were economically inactive (for example, the long-term sick, carers and those looking after home or family)’.

In other words, the people most addicted to gambling are those who can least afford to lose.

The causes of any addiction are seldom singular or simple. But if the Government and gambling industry are serious about helping people to gamble responsibly, they must do more to help those who cannot help themselves.

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