The NHS’s mental health chief has warned betting firms not to exploit the return of televised football matches with “reckless” advertising campaigns.
Claire Murdoch said: “The return of football will be a moment of excitement for millions but it must not be an excuse for gambling firms to open the floodgates of addiction”.
With most sporting events previously cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, betting through virtual sports rose by 40 per cent in March.
Murdoch said that following the NHS’s battle to protect people from COVID-19, “the last thing” it needs “is for avoidable harm to be caused by reckless advertising and behaviour from the gambling industry as normal life begins to resume”.
She added: “What we don’t want to see over the next 48 hours is firms kicking off more aggressive advertising campaigns to make up for lost time.”
The mental health chief said that the NHS are “increasingly seeing people in need of specialist help” after being tempted to gamble by “aggressive marketing”.
In January, Murdoch wrote to several big gambling firms including bet365, William Hill and BetFred to outline her concerns about gamblers being offered incentives to spend more and more money.
She expressed concern that “offering people who are losing vast sums of money” incentives to continue betting leads people “back into the vicious gambling cycle which many want to escape”.
Murdoch added that the NHS cannot continue to “pick up the pieces” of damaged lives.