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Return of professional sport… and gambling risks


After a hundred-day hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the English Premier League returned in mid-June. In the same week, betting shops reopened their doors to the public.

It seems that even when the country is navigating a global pandemic, professional sports and gambling are intrinsically linked.

But increasingly, concerns are being raised about the prevalence of gambling advertising and professional sports.

Last August saw a ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban on betting advertising. The ban means that gambling firms can’t show ads during live sport broadcast before the 9pm watershed in the UK.

Despite this, half of all Premier League clubs and two-thirds of Championship clubs are sponsored by bookmakers. Many more are in partnerships with betting firms.

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Call for ban on shirt advertising

In July, a House of Lords committee recommended a total ban on betting firm advertising on football shirts as part of its 192-page report on the problematic effects of gambling.

The report, a review of the 2005 Gambling Act, calls for:

  • A complete ban on all gambling ads on TV and online.
  • Affordability checks for gamblers.
  • Stringent controls on game design.
  • Stopping VIP schemes and other betting incentives.

It also endorses a complete ban on all gambling advertising ‘in or near any sports grounds or sports venues, including sports programmes’.

The call for more stringent measures follows an alarming report from the Gambling Commission that suggested as many as 55,000 children between the ages of 11 to 16 could be classified as ‘problem gamblers’, and that one problem gambler takes their own life every day.

Chair of the committee Lord Grade said: “Most people who gamble enjoy it safely. However, gambling-related harm has made the lives of two million people miserable. It leads to hundreds of people each year taking their own lives, leaving families and friends devastated.”

Last September, Lewes FC made headlines for becoming the highest-ranked football club to endorse a gambling charity rather than a betting firm on their shirts. They chose to support Gambling with Lives, a charity that supports families who have suffered bereavement because of gambling-related suicide.

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Problem gamblers impacted by lockdown conditions

Despite a moratorium on gambling advertising during the pandemic, lockdown conditions have given problem gambling plenty of opportunities to flourish.

Data from Google Trends in May highlighted that the number of searches for online casinos had hit an all-time peak in the UK during lockdown.

And in the absence of sports betting in the long months of lockdown, it’s been revealed by the Gambling Commission that there was a 25% increase in betting on slot machines online, while the amount of gambling sessions lasting over an hour has increased 23% year on year.

Gambling charity the Gordon Moody Association said the number of problem gamblers who’d contacted them during lockdown had increased from a monthly rate of 30 to 1000, and the number of calls from those experiencing suicidal thoughts reached as many as five per day.

Know the signs of a gambling problem

It’s important to understand the signs of a gambling problem. If you’ve experienced any of the following, it could be time to seek help:

  • Feeling like you’ve lost control and can’t stop gambling.
  • Chasing losses or trying to compensate for lost money by continuing to gamble.
  • Taking out credit to pay for gambling, gambling with money you don’t have or borrowing from friends and family.
  • Losing interest in other facets of your day-to-day life, like work, partner and family time.
  • Hiding or lying about how much money you’re spending on gambling.
  • Staying up late to gamble, missing work or falling behind on productivity because of a gambling habit.
  • Having difficulties in your personal relationships.
  • Experiencing mental health issues, like anxiety and stress.
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How to get help with a gambling problem

The first step in overcoming any form of addiction is understanding that you have a problem. It’s reassuring to know that if you feel you need support to overcome a gambling addition, help is out there.

Here are just a few of the helplines, clinics and other organisations that are dedicated to offering support, advice and treatment for gambling addiction:

  • The NHS: Recommends cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves talking to a counsellor to break negative patterns and form more positive habits. This can be especially useful in the treatment of addiction. In the first instance, you should speak to your GP to find out how they can help.
  • Gamcare: Runs the National Gambling Helpline, which you can call on 0808 8020 133. They also offer counselling.
  • National Problem Gambling Clinic: This is a specialist clinic that’s specifically set up to help problem gamblers. It’s available in England and Wales.

Form healthy habits instead

If you’d prefer to try to self-manage your gambling first, here are some strategies it could be helpful to adopt:

  • Understand why you gamble: Is it through boredom? Are you trying to escape other, more stressful events in your life? Or is it a form of socialising for you? It can be helpful to label the reasons you gamble, so you can find another way of alleviating boredom, stress or loneliness.
  • Open up to someone you trust: At first, speaking up about a gambling habit that’s become problematic might seem impossible. But as with many problems, being open about it with a close friend or family membercan help you get some much-needed perspective – and help.
  • Avoid gambling triggers: If you know that visiting certain websites, betting shops or having specific apps on your phone will result in a relapse, it’s best to cut these out of your life. It could even be worth downloading some blocking software, which can help you avoid the temptation to gamble online. Some gambling businesses will also help you by allowing you to self-exclude, meaning you won’t be allowed to use their services for a specific amount of time.

If you’re concerned that you might have spiraling debt caused by gambling, it could be time to speak up and get help. We can share our experience and advice to help you get a handle on your debt concerns. Speak to a professional debt advisor today. Call 0808 253 2541 to get started.

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