Ease of online betting and range of choice is dangerous
11 March ~ Football’s long connection to gambling has not always been a positive one. To address this a new campaign was launched this year by Senet group, an independent watchdog set up by some of the larger gambling companies, going under the tagline: "When the fun stops. Stop." A catchy ditty co-signed by GambleAware to help to stop gamblers who get stuck in the compulsive habit of chasing their losses down the rabbit hole when results start to go against them, but should the odd bit of window dressing and a couple of TV adverts absolve betting companies from the guilt they carry?
The 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey showed that 73 per cent of adults had gambled that year, with 1-2 per cent of that figure considered to be problem gamblers. While that may not seem too high the nature of betting has shifted dramatically in the past few years, the rise of online gambling means it has never been easier to place a bet and the sheer level of choice available has increased dramatically.
It’s a situation we’ve all been in, sitting down watching the game when the half-time whistle blows and the floating head of Ray Winstone appears on the screen assuring you that it’s all about the "in-play". He’ll offer you the odds on the next goalscorer (which will be wrong) or the full-time score (which will also be wrong), but beyond those standard options you can now bet on pretty much anything you can imagine, be it corners, bookings, throw-ins or goal kicks. Many of these bets can clear before half-time and so the temptation to try your luck again on these impossibly tight markets rises.
For most people this temptation can be easily sated and some of the blame does need to go with the addict whose decision-making would be charitably described as suspect. However, for betting companies to offer such varied, immediate choice and hope that a tagline will inspire their more addicted users to quit is wishful thinking. If there is a true desire within the gambling community to try to tackle this issue they need to start implementing policies that could have some genuine effect, whether that comes from limiting the amount of times you can bet on a single match or, even stricter still, limiting the amount of bets you can place in a certain timeframe.
The matchday flutter is an institution that millions will enjoy safely every single year and shouldn’t stop, but it’s imperative that the footballing community recognises the danger of the sweeping trend of "in-play" markets and takes the necessary steps to protect itself. Better yet perhaps gambling companies can stop working on taglines and start working on solutions. Josh Stephenson