Gambling adverts are ‘out of control’, bishop says

‘GAMBLING advertising is out of control’, the Bishop of St Albans claimed this week.

The Rt Rev Alan Smith is calling for ‘strong yet sensible’ regulation in the UK. He pointed to Italy, which has already banned gambling advertising entirely. And Australia has also banned gambling advertising during sporting events.

Writing for Politicshome, Bishop Smith, the Church’s lead bishop for gambling,said that parents in the UK ‘were horrified their children were bombarded with gambling adverts’ throughout the World Cup. He said that ‘live-odds’ adverts placed ‘extensive pressure of viewers to bet’.

These are often shown during commercial breaks and informs viewers of the most recent odds, encouraging them to place bets as they watch the sporting event.

He said that these ‘relentless’ adverts would have been seen by an estimated 430,000 problem gamblers in the UK. He pointed out that victims of the gambling industry cost the tax-payer between £260 million and £1.2 billion every year.

“The NHS is possibly spending an eye-watering £610 million just on hospital inpatient services for problem gamblers alone,”he claimed.

The Bishop said that rates of child problem gamblers have remained ‘depressingly stable’, and that adverts ‘are helping to normalise gambling for a new generation’.

“The industry claims that it is acting responsibly. Splashed across their commercials is the phrase: ‘When the fun stops, stop.’ The advert is, in fact, designed to encourage gambling as the word ‘fun’ is the biggest word in the strap line and is in capital letters,” he said.

“On top of all this it is also totally ineffectual. Just half of children polled have actually seen the phrase – despite them watching on average 3.8 adverts a day.”

Tory peer Lord Chadlington this week called for gambling ads to be banned an hour before, during and for an hour after live sporting events.

Lord Chadlington wrote this week that since 2012, gambling advertising has increased by 63 per cent to £312m last year. He also points to research on the ‘Gambling with Lives’ website, which says that there is at least one gambling-related suicide every morning and every afternoon each working day.

“I have been working with some of these bereaved families and it is scandalous that since the 2005 Gambling Act, successive Governments have been so slow to recognise, as the Labour paper suggests, that the UK is on the lip of a gambling epidemic,” he said.

“My grandchildren may well look back on this period of UK social history when we allowed almost unfettered gambling marketing with the same bewilderment that we all now look back at a time when cigarette smoking was freely advertised on TV,” he added.

Spokesman for public policy charity CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) James Mildred commented:“Lord Chadlington is absolutely right to call for bold action to tackle the prevalence of gambling advertising.

“The Government cannot ignore the fact his proposals carry cross-party political support,” adding that his views are also ‘evidently popular’ with the wider public.

“In the light of this, banning sport betting ads before, during and after live events is badly needed but must be seen as a first step.”