Every time I hear the phrase ‘fixed-odds betting terminals’ (FOBT) I want to scream. It’s not because I don’t entirely disagree with the maximum stake reduction in Great Britain to £2 ($2.40), from £100; but since moving over to the reporting side of the gambling industry, I think I’ve heard about these terminals almost every... single... day.
It looks like I could be repeating myself further down the line with the words ‘online gambling,’ as this is what the UK Government is currently focusing on bringing down. Don’t get me wrong, I do find myself agreeing with some of the reasons it is targeting certain aspects of online gambling, but this isn’t my point.
My point is about why the Government appears incapable of taking a stance against all the issues it has with gambling at once. If the issue with FOBTs (sigh) was such a cause for concern, with individuals being able to spend large amounts of cash in seconds, why didn’t the Government bring online gambling to everyone’s attention at the same time? Was it even mentioned? I can’t recall it ever was.
If, for example, I needed to return multiple items to a shop, I wouldn’t talk through one item, have it refunded and sign the return form, then pull out a second item from my bag which I hadn’t mentioned. What would be the point? If there are multiple issues, I’m pretty sure the Government can discuss them all in one go. But it almost seems as if it wants to drag out the attack on the industry. Can you sense the sarcasm?
If all the Government’s issues were to be resolved at once, what would The Guardian have to ram down people’s throats about how horrendous the industry is? I’m not insinuating other news in general is upbeat - far from it in fact. But the gambling industry seems to receive some of the worst coverage of any sector I have ever witnessed.
The Gambling Commission produced a report in July 2018, where almost 3,000 11-16-year-olds participated in a survey about gambling and their potential habits. Out of the 2,865 surveyed, 14% admitted to spending their own money on gambling in the past seven days.
But within the report, it doesn’t clarify what is deemed as betting. I highly doubt an 11-year-old has wandered into Ladbrokes and put their pocket money on a 10-1 shot at Lingfield. Children may determine gambling as bets among friends, rather than a sports wager with an online operator.
What was quite enjoyable to report was the news which broke out over MP Ian Paisley, who accepted a gift from William Hill, believed to be tickets for an English Premier League match which included hospitality.
Paisley, having previously called the gambling industry "a plague on families," to no surprise to absolutely anyone, declined to comment on the £1,000 gift. "I’ve really no comment to make" was just about all the MP, who had received the gift from William Hill on 10 March, could grumble. So it appears the Government and its members are quick to slam the industry, but if it personally benefits from a day out, all its beliefs seem to be forgotten; for at least 90 minutes anyway.
I’m sure Paisley isn’t the first, nor will he be the last, MP who has a strong stance against the gambling industry to take such a ‘gift.’ Your guess is as good as mine as to what the Government will try and target once it has dealt with online gambling. Will it ever run out of issues? History tells you the answer is no.
For me personally, the problems within the gambling industry are being stretched out to create the perception it is far worse than it actually is. The Government should address the issues and move on. Sadly, this doesn’t look likely to happen.