The last two decades have seen a major deregulation of gambling, with it being much easier to gamble and with widespread advertising. For most of us this hasn’t been an issue, but it has been for an increasing number of people and the effects on them and their families can be truly devastating. For them, lives are literally wrecked.
I believe the impacts of online betting have yet to be fully understood. Lives are ruined on a daily basis and younger people are increasingly exposed to it. Teenagers play online games and it is now incredibly easy for online gambling to become an extension of that. Things have moved on from playing fruit machines in the pub.
Some progress on gambling has been made, with the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals having their maximum stake reduced to £2. This has reduced the amount of rapid heavy losses when gamers could bet up to £100 every 20 seconds, but it hasn’t changed the gambling culture or addressed online gaming. Indeed, online gaming is available 24 hours and can be done within seconds from your mobile 'phone, which the vast majority of us now have. When you add in the explosion of gambling advertising, you can see how easy it can be to be exposed and potentially become addicted.
TV advertising for online casinos particularly concerns me. These adverts offer free plays to hook people in, with games designed up to appeal to specific groups such as young women. The relentless volume of adverts on television make it seem like this is a ‘normal’ part of life and what could possibly go wrong when your account is given a credit bonus when you open it? Personally, I’d like to see these adverts no longer allowed.
There is a balance to be struck as many people enjoy betting occasionally and personal choices should be respected, but I do believe the deregulation pendulum has swung too far with a need for greater regulation of online gambling. We shouldn’t forget that there were very good reasons why gambling was regulated in the first place.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
21st August 2019