The dangers that gamblers face is becoming addicted. When is the line supposed to be drawn? The well known phrase from Gamble Aware “When the FUN stops STOP” is an effective pointer for gamblers to base on. Something that originally starts as a bit of fun, can soon become dark. But once someone is addicted to something, how do they know when to cash out for good?

Often people aren’t proud for gambling, and it is something that can be done in secrecy, especially with the development on technology. As mentioned in my previous post, a report found that men are are more likely to be classified as problem gamblers with 1.5% of men identified as such compared to 0.2% of women. Although this puts more risk on men, it does show it can happen to anyone. Last year a report commissioned by Labour found there are 430,000 identified gambling addicts in the UK, 25,000 of which are 16 or under. It’s fair to say it is shocking to see that they’re are children who are addicted to gambling, who aren’t even legally allowed to bet.

Gambling and Gaming – is there a link?
There is lots of speculation as to whether gambling and gaming are linked. Children today start playing console games not long after they learn to walk. Fortnite was ranked the most popular game of 2018 and despite being rated age 12, you can bank on asking almost any child today whether they play Fortnite and they’ll probably say yes. In a blog post released in June, Epic Games said that Fortnite has grown to 125 million players across all platforms. Online video games magazine reports that there are more than 40 million people log in to play Fortnite every month. The Fifa player count for 2018 was revealed to be over 42 million on just consoles, and is a game rated age 3. The figure of how many children under the age of 16 simply can’t be calculated. But where does this link in with gambling?

The Gambling Commission say that gaming can be a route into gambling, with close to a million young people exposed to gambling through “loot boxes” in video games or on smartphone apps. Games like Fortnite and Fifa both include collectables in the form of ‘skins’ for your character, and collecting players in Fifa’s Ultimate Team mode. These can be purchased using real money with the chance of winning the best items. There are websites separate to Fortnite where players can actually trade, bet on and sell their skins in order to get better ones. This has now been considered to be called skins gambling. These sites are legal as long as they have a proper licence and aren’t targeted towards children, but who can monitor if children are using it? Gambling Commission found that just over 1 in 10 11-16 year olds had participated in this.

Fifa Ultimate Team involves collecting the best players in football today. These players can be found in player packs that are purchased for real money. However, there is only a certain chance that the best players can be found in these packs. Some people believe that using these features should count as gambling because the player is risking something of value (either real money or in-game coins) in the hope of winning something else. Even if real money isn’t being spent, there is the argument that this sort of risk taking gambling style behaviour could impact youngsters later in life. Gambling is all about odds and risk, and the likelihood or chance of you getting what you want. This is mirrored in loot boxes and player packs, because often the chances of gamer’s winning what they want from the packs is slim. Although people have to be 16 or over to take part in the lottery, and have to be 18 or over to enter a casino or betting shop, arcades are still open for children. It may not be considered but it is still a form of gambling. Also like raffles, money is being spent in order for the chance to win something.

The Bigger Picture
Men and women are known to start gambling at different times in their lives, with males starting earlier at around the age of 20 and females starting at around 30. Gambling as an industry is almost avoidable for anyone. Throughout the World Cup last year, research suggests that viewers were exposed to almost 90 minutes worth of betting adverts. Labour called for a government review of gambling regulation in a bid to try and stop gambling adverts during live events. I imagine this sort of exposure can be detrimental to young audiences and vulnerable people, influencing them to bet. Although it wasn’t banned, in 2018 The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) announced tougher standards on gambling advertising, focusing on ads which exploit problem gamblers by promising free bets and bonuses. This jeopardises Ray Winstone’s successful career as the face of Bet365, as mentioned in the previous post. In addition, 9 of the 20 Premier League clubs and 17 of the 24 clubs in the Championship have betting company sponsorship’s on their shirts, not to mention sponsorship’s around football stadiums. This is heavy advertising exposure to all ages of people. However, there hasn’t been enough empirical evidence to prove that gambling advertising influences problem gambling.

A study by the charity GambleAware and the thinktank Institute for Public Policy Research found that problem gambling could be costing the UK economy up to £1.2bn a year. It doesn’t just financially impact the problem gamblers themselves, it also impacts the economy. To add to this, it’s just a a financial impact but also a social one. The families and friends of people who are addicted also have to suffer with this arising problem.

The issue even reaches the top. There are studies to show professional footballers themselves are a high-risk group, in terms of developing problematic gambling behaviour. There has been multiple examples of professional footballers with severe gambling addictions. Joey Barton, an ex-player who played in top division, was banned from football for 13 months for admitting to betting on 1260 matches. The FA tightened its regulations in 2014 to stop players in England’s top eight divisions betting on any football-related activity, anywhere in the world. But he believes that “ambling is ‘culturally ingrained’ in English football and many more players are breaking the Football Association’s betting rules.” Another more recent example of this is Leigh Griffiths. In December 2018, he was given an indefinite leave from Celtic FC to receive professional help to tackle his Gambling addiction. Reports suggest he apparently entered into a self-exclusion programme from a group of one leading bookmaker’s shops. These are only two examples, but it highlights the extremity of this matter, and how it really can impact anyone.

Look out for next week’s blog which will take on a different perspective of gambling.