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Opinion: Problem gamblers at risk in lockdown

PUBLISHED: 13:55 16 May 2020

East Ham MP Stephen Timms is concerned about gamblers during lockdown.

East Ham MP Stephen Timms is concerned about gamblers during lockdown.

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Our community has seen more than our fair share of tragedies during the current crisis.

When it’s all over, we will need to understand properly why we have been hit so hard. In the meantime, we need to do all we can to minimise the toll of the pandemic on every aspect of our lives.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm, for example, has been busy. The Covid-19 lockdown means problem gamblers, and those recovering from addiction, are more susceptible to gambling advertising.

The Gambling Commission estimates that 10 per cent of people who have not gambled in the past year are likely to gamble in the next month, and 60pc of the most active gamblers are now gambling more frequently.

The all-party group called last month for the gambling industry to do more to protect gamblers. We therefore welcomed the Betting and Gaming Council announcement that its members would stop advertising on TV and radio for the duration of the lockdown.

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Unfortunately, however, this does not go far enough.

Last week the group heard from Professor Samantha Thomas, an Australian academic. She argues that gambling companies have been doing things which tobacco companies used to do – like sport sponsorship – to make gambling more socially accepted. She expressed alarm about children being exposed to gambling advertising, often online.

We also heard from James Grimes, a former gambling addict who set up the Big Step initiative. When he was a child, gambling adverts linked to his favourite football team seemed glamorous.

They paved the way for a future gambling habit, which became an addiction.

With so much advertising now online, halting TV and radio advertising does not go far enough.

Stricter measures are needed. The gambling industry and regulators have a real opportunity to act responsibly.

I hope they will take it.


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