The Gambling Debate: Is Gambling Good or Bad?

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Gambling is a concept that has been around for centuries, whether you’re wagering some marbles or placing £5 on a football accumulator, the idea of gambling splits society down the middle.

Some argue that is something that can be enjoyed as a social event when used responsibly and in moderation. Others argue that gambling is easily accessible and can ruin lives.

Statistics produced by the Gambling Commission for 2016 show that 45% of people asked have gambled within the last four weeks, while only 0.5% of 16+ year olds in England identified as “problem gamblers”

Gambling is huge in modern society and is used by a huge spectrum of people. People ranging from regular gamblers to those who put a token £1 on a horse when the Grand National is on, either way it is a huge business with a huge income. The Great British Gambling industry generated £13.6bn between April 2015 and March 2016 (figures courtesy of Gambling Commission)

Advertising is a huge draw for gambling firms, especially on sporting events. For instance if you’re watching a football match on Sky Sports or BT Sport then it’s almost inevitable you will encounter multiple adverts from gambling firms offering enhanced odds for the game that’s about to start.

A worrying report from The Gambling Commission in 2016 states that 75% of 11–15 year olds questioned, had seen gambling advertising on TV. This is particularly concerning as it may encourage someone underage that gambling is good because they see it lots on TV.

While gambling can be enjoyed in moderation, many people fall foul to the system and can’t control their spending. The rise of online gambling from firms such as BET365, SKYBET, Coral and more offer instant access to their services through a website and mobile app, meaning people can gamble on the go. This allows people to get immersed in gambling and can gamble without any restrictions, which can lead to major gambling problems.

The gambling industry has a huge presence online, in particular twitter. Almost all bookmakers have twitter accounts aimed to entice users to sign up with their sites with “crazy” offers that are often misleading. For example, Coral are offering all new customers odds of 25/1 for Liverpool to beat Southampton in the 2nd leg of their League Cup clash. While this may seem enticing to casual fans, the enhanced winnings are paid as free bets which are not available for withdrawal, meaning customers would have to stake more money to be able to access these winnings.

Many bookmakers also have affiliates. These are often sports accounts with huge followings on social media. They tweet sign up links and share their tips to encourage users to join them, with the affiliate getting a commission for each person they refer.

This can create an atmosphere where people feel obliged to bet as they don’t want to “miss out” on potential winners.

Another problem area is gambling in shops. Many shops contain machines that are known as “fixed odds machines” which allow the customer to play various games with a maximum stake of £100. The industry recently reduced the limit to £50 and any customer wishing to deposit more would need to speak to a member of staff to authorise the request.

In addition to this, in October 2016, the Government announced they would review the use of machines amid concerns they harm vulnerable people who easily become hooked on the machines.

It is widely argued that shops don’t do enough to support customers who may have a problem. While shops do have the self-exclusion feature in place, many obsessive gamblers won’t feel the need to exclude themselves from the premises and some shop staff are guilty of supporting people’s gambling.

A Guardian article in early 2016 points out that staff would recognise who visited frequently and would offer these regulars complimentary cups of tea or coffee or even go out to the shop themselves to buy the customer a sandwich to maximise their time in the shop. Such tactics show how staff are trained to keep customers on the premises as long as possible in order to maximise their spending.

Gambling is an issue that will always split opinion down the middle but if it’s used responsibly, it can be enjoyed by everyone socially and can be fun.