The Government should act to curb the excesses of the online gambling industry, a former Prime Minister’s speechwriter has said.
Writing in The Times, Clare Foges warned against “relentless” gambling advertising.
Ministers are considering a gambling review into the harmful nature of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling, and whether gambling adverts should be banned before the 9pm watershed. It is expected to be concluded later this year.
But Foges, who worked as a speechwriter for David Cameron, called on the Government to “ban the promotion of gambling altogether, just as we did for smoking”.
She pointed to “an explosion of people hooked on smartphone betting” as addicts are now attracted “through pop-up ads on smartphones, TV adverts, social media”.
“Addicts secretively chase their losses, digging a deeper hole in the hope of getting out of their debts, handed ever bigger spades by the gambling companies.”
The Times columnist highlighted a recent report that found the number of people excluding themselves from gambling websites has risen dramatically in the last four years.
Self-exclusions – whereby a gambler will voluntarily ban themselves from a particular high street bookmaker’s or gambling website – have risen from just over 30,000 in 2013 to over 1,000,000 in 2016.
Foges wrote: “Gambling advertising is relentless. The number of adverts has increased fifteenfold over a decade, from 90,000 in 2005 to 1.4 million in 2014.”
She reported that gamblers lost £3 billion online last year and she believes Theresa May’s Government should look at the maximum stakes allowed online by UK-regulated operators.
Foges concluded: “When it comes to online gambling her government must heed not the self-interested cries of the bookies, but the people whose appetites and addictions they prey upon. Will the industry ever curb its excesses voluntarily? I wouldn’t bet on it.”