Former No.10 speechwriter Clare Foges has written to The Times asking for the UK government to take action in order to control many problems associated with the online gambling industry. Foges, who has written many speeches for former Prime Minister David Cameron, has very strong opinions on the question of online gambling. She pointed out that the advertisement campaigns of online gambling websites were unnecessarily persistent.
There is indeed a lot of concern that Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) are dangerous, especially to vulnerable sections of the population. As a matter of fact, these terminals are popularly known as the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling because of their highly addictive nature.
Lawmakers in the United Kingdom are planning a study about the effect of these terminals on people who are prone to gambling addiction. Furthermore, they will also consider whether advertisements for gambling sites should be restricted to post 9:00 pm. There is no timeframe for the study as of now, but it might be completed by the end of the year.
Is a Complete Ban on Online Gambling Possible?
Foges is not satisfied with mere restrictions on gambling; she would prefer for it to be banned entirely. She says that the number of people addicted to smartphone gambling has become worryingly high. The main reason for this, according to her, is that they are unable to avoid advertisements on social media, television, and their smartphones. She also pointed out that gambling advertisements have increased from just 90,000 in 2005 to 1.4 million a decade later.
She said it’s a very common practice for addicts to keep chasing their losses, hoping to somehow win enough money to pay off their debts. However, gambling companies keep encouraging them to pour even more money into their addiction. It is estimated that gamblers lost more than £3 billion at different gambling sites. Therefore, she recommends that the government should also regulate the maximum stake permitted at online gambling sites.
Self-exclusions on the Rise
There has been a rise in the numbers of people excluding themselves from gaming or sports betting sites. There were around 30,000 self-exclusions in 2013, but the number jumped to 1,000,000 just four years later. This clearly indicates that huge numbers of people are experiencing problems with online gambling and need all the help they can get to stay away from it. Interestingly, most people who opted for self-exclusion wished to block themselves from two sites, indicating that avid gamblers maintained accounts at multiple gaming sites.
Foges said that the UK government shouldn’t rely on the gambling industry to curtail problem behaviours such as addiction because it is simply not in their interest to do so. After all, they get almost half their profits from gambling addicts. Instead, the UK government should look at the needs of the affected people and those who are at high risk when it comes to formulating a policy on gambling.
There is much support for Foges’ opinion on self-exclusion. The Campaign for Fairer Gambling maintains that this is not the right way to address problem gambling because people only try it after they have lost huge amounts of money. Besides, only a small number of gambling addicts even opt for excluding themselves from this activity.
Gambling companies don’t even make it easy for addicts to stop playing. The process for self-exclusion is a lengthy and cumbersome one, and many gamblers quit halfway through the process. In fact, it is not at all reasonable to expect gambling companies to shut down a revenue stream that is so profitable for them. What’s more, there have been complaints that gambling firms send promotional emails to people even if they have excluded themselves. The government will clearly have to step in to address the issue.