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The head of mental health care in England has written to the heads of top gambling firms, demanding urgent action to tackle betting-related ill health.
NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch has ramped up pressure on companies to take action, following reports that gambling giants continue to nudge losing punters into more betting.
The NHS has recently opened new gambling addiction clinics to stem the tide of betting-related ill health, as part of its Long Term Plan for the health service.
Reports have found that firms are offering hospitality tickets, VIP treatment, and free bets to people who regularly lose large amounts of money.
The major intervention from the NHS follows heavy criticism of gambling firms across the country and in parliament during the scandal of ‘bet to view’ football streaming, which turns fans into punters by having to place a bet in order to watch sports games.
The gambling commission has confirmed plans to crack down later this year on bets placed by credit card while another powerful technique reportedly used involves delaying people from withdrawing their winnings, increasing the possibility of re-betting and potentially losing any gains.
In a letter to industry chiefs today, Claire Murdoch calls on gambling companies to:
- Immediately restrict bets placed by credit cards, before the gambling commission’s restrictions come into force later this year;
- Ban the use of so called ‘VIP experiences’;
- Stop streaming live games, all of which could make a major difference in helping people avoid building up debts and spending money they can’t afford.
Over half of adults in England have gambled during the past year and NHS estimates show around 400,000 people have a serious gambling problem in England.
NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch said: “The links between the sporting industry and gambling are deeply disturbing, and the tactics used by some firms are shameful.
“It is high time sporting bodies get back to their roots and start focussing on fans and families enjoying watching their heroes play, rather than allowing firms to hijack sport in pursuit of profit.
“Our NHS Long Term Plan will see 14 gambling clinics there for people across the country as part of our annual £2.3 billion investment boost to mental health services, but the NHS cannot be expected to put out fires caused by other parts of society playing with matches, which is why we need the gambling industry to up its game.”
Specialist services to tackle addiction and the mental ill health that excessive betting can cause are being rolled out across the country as part of a £2.3 billion package of measures in the NHS Long Term Plan.
Last year, the gambling industry in the UK raised £14.5 billion in the UK whilst the Gambling Commission classes more than two million people as ‘at risk’ of addiction.
The gambling industry also spends £1.5 billion on marketing and advertising campaigns, which can make it even more difficult for people to escape gambling addiction.
27 out of 44 top football clubs in England have a gambling company as their shirt sponsor, and this week there has been an outcry following games in the FA Cup third round been streamed by gambling firms using the ‘bet to view’ model.
Despite the backlash, gambling firms are to continue streaming games for future rounds in the FA Cup.
Other sports, such as rugby, have since come under criticism for similar bet to view practices with the gambling industry.