Gambling Reform & Society Perception

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David Lammy MP, on problem gambling – February 2011
Unless we establish some speed limits on the road, we are only going to need more and more ambulances.

Reform

The Government of 2007 were well aware of what the consequences would be in terms of the number of people that would be sucked into gambling: the looser the regulations governing casinos, online gambling and FOBT’s, the higher the number who would use them.

When the relaxation of gambling laws was announced, Tessa Jowell, the then Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, assured the public that the industry would react to its new freedom in a ‘responsible’ way. The results of the 2010 Prevalence Survey prove that prediction to be naive nonsense. In fact, Tessa Jowell stated, any increase in problem gambling would be a failure.

Is it responsible to behave in a way that results in addiction growing by 50 per cent? Responsible to cause the number of distressed callers on an addicts’ ‘hot line’ to increase to 38,000?

Or responsible to encourage the average debt of the hardened addict to rise from £13,800 to £17,500 in a year with some of them owing £100,000 or more?

Did anyone in government really believe that the people who run our betting shops, casinos and internet gambling sites would step-in if they believed someone had crossed the line and was abusing their product?

The gambler has to take 100% responsibility for their actions and their addiction, but the government and the gambling industry need to take some responsibility as well, because they’re currently taking none.

None of our recommendations will ever affect a person who enjoys a flutter safely. Our recommendations are based on doing all we can to avoid problem gambling, which is in everyone’s interest.

We’re consulting with the right people to make sure the voice of GRASP is heard, as we represent the problem gamblers and their families in Great Britain.

Since being established in November 2010, GRASP have been in consultation with:

The Gambling Commission
Responsible Gambling Strategy Board

Ivan Lewis MP – Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport

Salvation Army

Care UK

Ecclesiastical

Quakers

Professor Jim Orford

Department for Culture, Media & Sport review on gambling

We’ve appeared in numerous media articles, debated on radio and our awareness adverts have been tweeted by numerous celebrity supporters.

Some of our members have taken part in important research at the NHS Gambling clinic and various medical research facilities to help try and help understand the complexities of this addiction, to try and stop others going through the same pain and misery.

As of August 2010, the gambling minister, John Penrose, has ignored over 20 letters from GRASP requesting a meeting to discuss the rise in problem gambling. This is how serious our government is taking Problem Gambling. The proportion of adults with family members they believe to have gambling problems is around 3.8%. GRASP believes the true figure of problem gambling to be even higher as gamblers are adept at lying and are not in the habit of revealing the full extent of their addiction until its too late and innocent family and friends are made to suffer as well. Mr Penrose, the 2010 BGPS figures suggest that as a nation we do have a very significant gambling problem which should be at the forefront of our minds when considering national policy.

We’re in consultation with many people, who all share the same desire to tighten an industry that is being glamourised 24/7, with horrible consequences. Yes it creates jobs, but the social effects can be horrendous.

We’re creating position papers on different subjects where we’d like to see change. We’re currently focusing on four key areas, but are working in the background on other matters as well.

The four key areas with a brief overview are:

Children & Gambling: Despite gambling having an age restriction in Great Britain, children are allowed to play Category D fruit machines, which is a jackpot of £5 and are often found in seaside towns. Currently, over 80% of GRASP members started gambling as a child and went on to develop a gambling addiction. In our meeting with the Gambling Commission in July 2011, they stated that they were not prepared to amend this law as there is no evidence to suggest that children who gamble at an early age are more likely to develop a gambling addiction. GRASP cannot think of any activity that has an age restriction and is proven to be potentially harmful in adults, yet the regulators are prepared to wait for evidence to see if the same applies to children. GRASP are in consultation with Julie Hynes, MA, CPS, who is providing us with medical research that proves the link that it’s dangerous to allow children to legally gamble, which we’ll provide to the Gambling Commission as our children need to be protected.

Credit Card Gambling – Speak to any professional concerning gambling addiction and one of the key indicators of a problem is borrowing money to gamble. Approach any bank asking for a personal loan of £10,000 as Liverpool look a dead cert at the weekend and your application would be refused, as the bank would be guilty of irresponsible lending. However, approach the same bank for an authorisation of £10,000 to a gambling company on your credit card and your request will be approved. The same rules of irresponsible lending still apply, with the banks acting as enablers, knowing they’ll get a high rate of interest on legally enforced gambling debts, which will be paid back in shame, as the person looks to keep their addiction a secret, thus the problem doesn’t get highlighted.

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – All of the information concerning FOBT’s will be covered in our position papers, as there is simply too much to write about these abhorrent machines. Please take a moment to read ‘FOBT The Truth’ which is an article the Racing Post declined to publish http://www.grasp-group.org.uk/forum/index.php?topic=854.0

This piece explains in detail why, in the worst recession in living memory, our high streets are being filled with bookmakers and its all down to what are being described as ‘the crack cocaine’ of gambling – FOBT’s. Australia currently have a similar problem with machines called Pokies and mandatory pre-commitment is to be launched very soon. These changes will not affect the recreational gambler, we’re talking about high intensity machines like FOBT’s/Pokies where you can bet £100 every 20 seconds. No recreational gamblers walks into a bookmakers intending to lose £18,000 per hour.

Gambling Advertising – The relaxation of the regulations were accompanied by the agreement that gambling commercials would be allowed on television. For the first time, the casino operators and bookmakers were allowed to reach into every home in Britain. Boys and girls would sit down on a Sunday afternoon to be greeted by the message, pumped out during commercial breaks in a football match: ‘It’s more exciting when you have money on it.’ Some people will say that in a free society, citizens who want to gamble should be allowed to squander their hard-earned cash in whatever way they choose. But it is impossible to argue – with any ethical justification – that the Government, in league with the industry, is entitled to encourage an increase in gambling. That is what the agreement to allow advertising on television amounts to. Initially there were promises of watersheds, but its now everywhere and with no media attention on the potential consequences, GRASP wants the whole Advertising/Awareness to be reviewed.

GRASP has many other areas it’s look at and if you have something you’d like to bring to our attention, please drop the team a mail under the contact us option or send us a tweet @thegraspgroup GRASP is also working and looking into the following:

Education for schools and employers on problem gambling

A Self Exclusion policy to cover every licensed gambling establishment in Great Britain that actually works and is independently and effectively audited on a regular basis

Withdrawal reverse option with online bookmakers

Treatment options offered by GP’s

Online Deposit Limits

Give power back to local authorities re betting shop applications

B3 machine changes & many, many more

GRASP are not anti-gambling, we’re anti problem gambling.

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