Experts issue warning over extent of UK gambling problem
A group of experts have spoken out over the magnitude of an apparent gambling problem in the UK, calling for further scrutiny of the issue.
Citing recent estimates, The Guardian newspaper said British punters lost £12.6 billion (€15 billion/$16.2 billion) through gambling in 2016, which equates to £300 for every person.
Earlier this week, footballer Joey Barton was handed an 18-month ban from the professional game after being found to have broken Football Association rules by placing bets on matches for more than a decade.
Although Barton admitted to the charges, he said in a post on his website that he intends to appeal the length of the ban, adding that action should be taken over an “explosion of sports betting” in recent years.
In response to the issue, a number of academics have also come forward to urge regulators and the government to address the problem, while some criticised the gambling industry over its influence of preventing scrutiny of the market.
Professor Gerda Reith of the University of Glasgow, who has been involved with studies on gambling for over 20 years, said: “Technology advances at such a fast pace the structures that are tasked to control it don’t keep up.
“That’s a fact of life but I think by not recognising that it’s such a problem we’re creating a problem; we’re not facing up to the potential for harm, particularly with regards to remote gambling that could lead to problems in the future.”
Meanwhile, Dr Sean Cowlishaw of Bristol University recently carried out a study that found one in four of 1,000 men aged between 18-24 displayed signs of a gambling problem.
Cowlishaw said: “There needs to be a recognition there are conflicts of interest that need to be actively managed.
“Most of what we know [about gambling harm] is through research and evidence heavily influenced by industry.
“Industry funds all the research in the country through Gamble Aware; the amount of money put up is incredibly small and the industry has been able to maintain control over the topics addressed.”
The Gamble Aware charity focuses its research on gambling-related harm, under the instruction of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, but is entirely funded entirely by contributions from the gambling industry,
Cowlishaw said this setup raises concerns: “It’s implicit in the structure that the gambling industry is an acceptable partner.
“If we look at research into tobacco and, increasingly, alcohol we can see the involvement of commercial groups can impede effective policy development.
“When we look at proposals for dealing with problem gambling, such as self-exclusion schemes or identifying people gambling in harmful ways, they all rely on partnerships with industry.”