Euro 2020: Concerns about rise in problem gambling and 'out of control' advertising

The head of the NHS Northern Gambling Service has raised concerns about an increase in problem gambling during the Euro 2020 and claims advertising promoted by betting firms is “completely out of control”.

Matthew Gaskell, clinical lead for the service, said the level of betting activity usually increases during international football tournaments and some people who are receiving treatment for their addiction are “extremely nervous” about relapsing as they know they will be bombarded with adverts on TV and social media.

“The advertising and marketing is completely out of control. I think the public is turning away from the saturation of gambling adverts, it's not just those of us who work in the field who are concerned,” said Mr Gaskell.

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“We worry about young people getting into gambling and there’s a worry about the existing highly engaged gamblers and what this tournament might do to them.

“But also when we look at our treatment population, they are extremely nervous about the scale of the advertising and the marketing. Their enjoyment of football is completely spoiled by the proliferation of gambling and advertising, it poses a significant threat to relapse for them.”

GamCare, which operates the National Gambling Helpline, states that during the 2018 World Cup the number of calls from gamblers rose by 5 per cent and it is expecting a similar increase during Euro 2020, which kicked off on Friday.

And research published by The Guardian suggests viewers were exposed to almost 90 minutes of betting adverts on ITV during the tournament in Russia in 2018.

Mr Gaskell is now urging anyone who thinks they may be developing a problem with gambling to avoid placing a bet, seek professional support and talk to their friends or family about the issues.

“Our advice is if you are experiencing problems then keep away, because it's so easy to escalate and get out of control,” he said.

After concerns were raised about the number of gambling adverts shown during the 2018 World Cup, ITV announced that no gambling adverts will be broadcast during the games which kick off at 2pm and 5pm, as it has introduced a ‘whistle to whistle ban’.

With games which kick off at 8pm, no gambling adverts will be shown during ad breaks before kick off or at half time.

An ITV spokeswoman said: “The concerns raised in the last World Cup were focused on the volume of gambling ads in and around matches encouraging in play betting – especially when children are watching.

“The whistle to whistle ban was designed to address these concerns and the amount of gambling advertising around the live broadcast of football matches at the Euros will be significantly reduced compared to the 2018 World Cup.”

If you have issues with gambling you can contact GamCare by phoning 0808 80 20 133