MPs have urged gambling companies to impose a temporary betting cap during the COVID-19 crisis.
With most sporting events cancelled due to the spread of the coronavirus, gambling firms have been channelling gamblers towards less popular competitions.
Other companies are heavily advertising addictive online casino games or even betting on computer-generated football matches.
In the absence of the Premier League and the Grand National, a senior manager at William Hill instructed employees to talk to punters about sports they were less likely to know anything about, such as “table tennis and Japanese baseball”.
In a letter to the Betting and Gaming Council, a cross-party group of MPs urged gambling firms to act more responsibly.
They wrote: “We are deeply concerned that as we go deeper into this crisis, more and more people will turn to online gambling as a distraction”.
The MPs suggest imposing a daily limit of £50 “would be a clear demonstration that the industry is willing to act responsibly and do what they can to protect society and peoples’ finances, at this dreadful time”.
“It’s the industry trying to capitalise on a national disaster”
Carolyn Harris MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm, said: “If they’re targeting someone to bet on this kind of sport, or computer-generated events, it can only be because that person is someone with a problem, to be gambling on something that obscure.
“It’s the industry trying to capitalise on a national disaster, encouraging problem gambling with reckless and foolhardy behaviour.”
Vice Chair Iain Duncan Smith MP said: “It’s pretty appalling that in the midst of all this difficulty and suffering, gambling companies are so desperate to ensure that those who gamble can continue to throw their money away that they direct them to all sorts of little-known and little-watched sports.”