Gambling, is it right?

During this blog I plan to draw to light the dangers and short comings of big companies in protecting its customers in the world of gambling, whilst giving an insight into how gambling has ruined a quarter of my life.

 

I myself, a 21 year old, have suffered from a gambling addiction since the age of 16. I earned £2.60 an hour as an apprentice chef, and easily spent the majority of my £104 pay check at the end of the week on scratch cards on the way home.  By the time I was 17 I was addicted to any form of online gambling. I spent hundreds over the few days I had possessed it.

So where did it all start? I remember my first win, on my first scratch card, it was shiny gold and cost just under two hours worth of my wage.  It was familiar too me as it was branded with “Monopoly” all over it, a game I loved from my childhood, that coupled with a big smiling crossed fingers (UK lotto logo) was enough to lure me in. Sure enough, I won £30. Over 10 hours of hard work in a kitchen would have just about got me that.

So what now? This works. Well I learn soon after you don’t win every time, but then at 16 I still had the naive mindset to not even think about the losses on £1 scratch cards and only focus on the instant £10 winning hits of adrenaline and dopamine throughout my body.

At school I was taught drugs release certain chemicals to create certain feelings (Cocaine causes greater dopamine levels) and it was illegal, and I shouldn’t do it its highly addictive and it can cause me and others harm. Gambling has much more chance of affecting each school kid in that class. Why? Because it’s just as addictive, yet widely accepted to do across the UK.  It has its harmless recreational uses (as do many drugs), but the dangers are never taught, only hinted at and implied. But when gambling is so closely related to team, family sports such as football, and so prominent in their advertising, (TV, billboards) during these sports, they are imprinting their marketing on people of all ages including children. Not only are they doing this they are doing in an unfair and predatory fashion. For example “BET365” using green & yellow colours, colours associated in basic human psychology as being related to the following: growth, hope, safety, nature, positivity & optimism. This should not be allowed, just as it is not with cigarettes.

I also feel it is complete neglect of customer safety, due to the fact they have absolutely not enough information about their customers, a bank wouldn’t lend £1,000 to anyone without knowing how this money is going to be paid back, or what it is secured on. Therefore these people should not be able to receive these sums of money without sufficient scoring of their clientele. For example, if a user had a linked credit score to their gambling account, the gambling company would be able to monitor and see if they have a bad score, and outstanding payday loans (which may have been used for gambling) and therefore refuse their right to bet on their platform. These basic algorithms are used across payday loan instant lending decisions and therefore would be simple to implement across gambling websites. This would then hugely decrease customer over spending and prevent cases like the tragic suicide of Ryan Myres in 2014. But ultimately this would greatly slash the 2012 profits of £116.5million and the UK Government’s share of £130million in tax.

So why gamble? “I don’t do it, so why don’t they just stop.” This question will never be answerable to someone who has never had an addiction. Whether your addiction be money and not being able to earn enough of it, or the chemical reactions occurring in your brain. When you become familiar with this feeling, and estranged from everything else, that’s when you start to lose the things that are around you, it becomes your only friend, your place for a moment of desperation entangled hope, clinging onto the thing that you chose over everything else that was important to you. This is a scary place to be and it can have disastrous effects on the mind. Especially when at the time you’re looking at a phone screen then suddenly you are £1,000 in debt and can’t afford your phone bill. All never looking away from the screen, not a single pound note, coin, or even a penny in the process. You have been fooled. Fooled into a game, a game where you will not win, you’ll suffer over a long journey of momentary and empty thrills that ultimately infect the rest of your life with loneliness, sleeplessness, self hatred, yet there are no physical affects as with drugs, so in shame and embarrassment you mask it, you don’t let anyone now, and you panic, scramble together what you can and even just from the look at the TV maybe even seeing your bet on Newcastle FC  come in, you see wonga imprinted on a shirt, great idea, another easily accessible, short-term-fixable solution you dive in with both hands. Any £300 of money that just came from a few clicks on my phone, surely has totally thrown away any sense of rationality when I’m down a few quid on roulette…

There are little resources to deal with gambling and places to find help, only charities with hotlines, but when you are so down with self hatred and shame I never felt the courage to call a phone number and speak to someone at the end, I never knew this was such a bad thing? Why is advertising made to make it look so normal and okay? When I told the doctor about my gambling I was given anti depressants and told to stop drinking as it will stop gambling. I gambled as much sober as drunk. It isn’t treated properly and taken seriously in our culture enough. Its damaging lives across the UK, families, relationships. But it can be stopped, we should make gambling something that isn’t ashamed have a problem with, if anything the way its encouraged to you it’s not a surprise, and the industry should stop getting away with luring people in without sufficient warnings, and mutual respect.  And I say “encouraged” as we most definitely are. My Facebook is inundated with advertisements for gambling companies. Well marketed yes, but not right, really not right. The definition of “advertisement” is to [publicly promote]. And the definition of “promote” [is to actively encourage someone to do something or take part in something.] And as a recovering gambling addict is this fair? It’s not done with smoking. Gambling ruined my life for at least a quarter of it so far, stopped me from having proper connections and hurting people I loved. And I would never do it again, and I will endeavour to stop lives being ruined where I can.

Overall I just want to stop gambling companies being able to trap people and lure them in with misguided advertising and in dangerous places, also children being able to gamble at arcades etc needs to be stopped. The brain is way too early in its development to understand the reactions that are taking place and be able to evaluate gambling as a threatening problem. Is it fair to target a group of individuals and profit so much from their problems?

What are the alternatives? Its proven problem gamblers brains work differently and it’s something out of their control, so why not enforce gambling licenses to help recognise the seriousness of it, allow the right for companies to refuse customers based on their financial history and carelessness before.

 

 

Okay, but what is follow the steps for social media adverts? That’s no help, they still come. Also what about when I watch TV or go to the football? I’d see BET365 everywhere. Its why they help people to quit smoking, hiding cigarettes and standardizing packaging.

 

What they make from gambling in Europe each year: 84bn euros.

Guidelines set by the gambling commission.

“Operators must take a holistic view of the customer, irrespective of whether they are gambling over the counter or online and, as with any other form of social responsibility, the onus will be with the operator to use the very same approaches that are used to design products and understand customer ‘profitability’, to guard against crime and problem gambling. Keeping crime out of gambling, preventing unlicensed gambling, and maintaining integrity, for example in relation to sports and sports betting, are highly dependent on strong partnerships and effective powers. We will continue to use these to the full”

The industry doesn’t pay £195m a year to local charities, we do my buying the tickets and then they claim they pay it..

 

 

 

 

 

“compared to research on smoking or on alcohol, research in the area of gambling is in its infant stages as its profile in public health policy terms. Further detailed research and studies on remote gambling were called for as well as systems for timely detection of potential problem development” –EU WORKSHOP ON DETECTION AND PREVENTION OF PROBLEM GAMBLING AND GAMBLING ADDICTION 25 MAY 2011 IN BARCELONA

 

Yet when funding is discussed, they said it “was briefly discussed. In some instances industry contributes towards treatment centres or research through existing mechanisms in Member States. Views were expressed on the differing roles of research and politics as well as on the risk of conflicts in terms of funding, whether this is by commercial operators or by the State-controlled or owned operators. However, research is needed to provide the evidence to guide political decisions and to provide the flow of information to gambling regulators.”

“The wide spread of gambling commercial practice, and the aggressive or misleading manner in which this is repeatedly done drives the problem of lack of social responsibility in this area, resulting in consumers making misinformed choices and minors being attracted to gambling.” Quote from EU Commision.

 

“ A wide range of media contribute to gambling commercial communication exposure, including cross-border. These include print media (both display advertising and classified adverts), direct mail, audio-visual media such as radio, television and cinemas, as well as online media, outdoor advertising and sponsoring. In one week during the 2010 football World Cup a survey in the UK counted 471 ads in printed press, 276 internet banner ads, 17 TV and 6 radio ads and 20 direct mailings; 796 ads in total. Table 4 provides a comparative overview for a number of European countries. Gambling operators – commercial and stateowned – spend significant amounts of money for commercial communication purposes, primarily for advertising services on television, printed press and through the internet. Operators use direct mail, banner ads and pop-ups to promote themselves and to recruit new players. Gambling services are finally commonly advertised through other far reaching means such as shirt sponsoring and perimeter advertising in sports arenas.

Minors are frequently exposed to gambling commercial communication as they use media that display gambling advertising, watch or attend sports competitions with gambling sponsoring or advertising.” – Gambling commission.

While commercial practices should ensure that citizens and players are sufficiently informed on the choices there are repeatedly instances where gambling advertising was found to be misleading or aggressive, deceiving the consumer in its behaviour or impairing the  consumer’s choice. It raises concerns in terms of timing, location, nature or persistence. Gambling is also portrayed as a solution to financial concerns or linked to personal success or enhanced attractiveness. Adverts were also found to lead to social harm and to exploit inexperience or lack of knowledge.

 

 

For example advertisements were found irresponsible or misleading when they • offered a solution to redundancy, debt or financing of children’s education (UK); • promised free games without revealing in a clear manner that withdrawing winnings would be subject to a wager of a disproportionate high amount (UK). In France revision of commercial communication requirements have been proposed because it is considered that social responsibility in commercial communications needs to be improved, both as regards the messages contained therein as well as regards limitations inter alia on television and internet. The proposed improvements are aimed at preventing problem.

Est. Problem gamblers in the UK is 583,000 vs 300,000 drug addicts (opiate & crack)vs  1.5million alcoholics, however look at the difference in help and promotion for stopping drinking and drugs are taught in schools to be bad.

This is a sub-optimal level of consumer protection because individuals will be unable to make choices based on informed decisions. In the workshops mentioned earlier expert representatives of treatment centres stressed the importance of clearly available helpline numbers, for those players feeling the need for immediate assistance.

 

Self exclusion not enough, I fooled myself into believing I was getting better but just going through different accounts with different deposit limits.

Yesterday in a service station en route to London was a Welcome Break “gaming” full of gambling machines, an advert out in the service station next to the cash machine, even a big poster right next to the children’s toy ride.

 

“ PREVENTIVE MEASURES Industry has a role in supporting corporate social responsibility”