Crackdown on gambling adverts 'desperately needed', claims head of NHS clinic
Matthew Gaskell criticised the Government’s plans to overhaul gambling laws, which were set out in a white paper this week, claiming the refusal to introduce new restrictions on advertising “represents a major failure”.
In a statement, the psychologist said these adverts are “a common threat” to the recovery of his patients who are trying to overcome addiction at the specialist clinic in Leeds, and a “gateway” for others.
“The Government seems to struggle to understand that gambling harm and addiction is not the product of a minority of so-called flawed, weak, vulnerable people,” he said.
“The industry is creating addiction and its business model appears to be reliant on those harmed and addicted.
"We are mass advertising and marketing an addictive product which could ensnare anyone at a given time.”
Mr Gaskell highlighted figures which show 60 per cent of profits generated in 2019 came from 5 per cent of gamblers.
Those companies spend more than £1.5bn a year on advertising, and according to the Government’s white paper, their adverts “can have a disproportionate impact” on problem gamblers.
The Gambling Commission, which has already imposed restrictions on marketing, said it will conduct a review of “incentives”, such as free bets and bonuses, to ensure they “do not encourage excessive or harmful gambling”.
The Government and the regulator are also planning to produce their own advertisements on safer gambling, instead of leaving it to betting companies.
It comes after footballers and celebrities were banned from gambling adverts last year, by the Committee of Advertising Practice, and Premier League football clubs agreed to a voluntary ban on front-of-shirt sponsorship.
Other measures set out in the white paper include maximum stakes for online slot machines of between £2 and £15 and a tax that would ensure bookmakers help fund research and treatment programmes.
The Government also wants to ensure that operators are conducting checks on customers who are binge gambling, suffering significant losses or financially vulnerable.
Under the current plans, people who lose £1,000 within a day or £2,000 within 90 days would be subjected to these checks.
But Mr Gaskell said criticsed the measures, claiming the gambling sector is effectively being asked to “police itself”. He said the Government needs to start treating problem gambling as a “public health issue” and stop allowing profit “to be placed ahead of health”.
The white paper was published after a review of gambling laws, launched in December 2020, examined the explosion in online betting and a string of high-profile cases where customers have suffered huge losses or taken their own lives.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said the Government is aiming to “bring our gambling rules into the digital age” and “protect the most vulnerable while also allowing everyone else to enjoy gambling without harm”.