Have you ever noticed how things creep up on you? (Like Old age or Christmas). A while ago I became aware of all the gambling ads on the TV…Where did they come from?! I have since been in touch with a guy called Ian who was addicted to gambling and is now involved in campaigning and highlighting some of the associated issues. This blog is not the be all and end all on gambling, just some thoughts to get you thinking about it, and whether we can do anything to counter it.  Did you know …

“It seems that the bookmaking industry targets poorer areas of our society.”

Bethnal Green and Bow has 45 betting shops which took £243 million in bets on credit or debit cards. By comparison in Henley not a single betting shop licence has been issued. In the 50 parliamentary constituencies with the highest unemployment, there are 1,251 betting shops which took £5.6 billion pounds on 4,454 Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) last year. By comparison the 50 constituencies with the lowest levels of unemployment only have 287 betting shops with 1,045 terminals and takings of £1.4 billion last year.

“If you bet the maximum on every spin, you could lose £18,000 an hour.”  

Bookmakers are allowed 4 FOBTs per shop, each machine spins every 20 seconds with each bet up to £100 per spin. If you bet the maximum on every spin, you could lose £18,000 an hour. A staggering £12.5 billion was gambled via FOBT’s machines in William Hill and Ladbrokes in the first 6 months of 2012. It is estimated that £46 billion was spent last year on FOBT’s, contributing 49% of William Hills High Street takings.

“FOBTs have been called the crack cocaine of the gaming industry.”

Although legally only over 18s can use these machines, they are attracting underage and vulnerable people to betting shops, often without being challenged for ID.  There is no locking system on them, so they can easily be played without proof of ID.

Ian says ‘I have put forward a suggestion that each machine should have a locking system fitted, which can only be unlocked by the cashier on proof of ID. This simple measure would help to save a generation of young and vulnerable people from becoming the problem gamblers of tomorrow.  Without a locking system being implemented, the potential to reduce underage gambling is very limited because the lone staff member running a betting shop is often unwilling to confront a group of underage gamblers’

We are all aware that gambling has the potential to wreck lives and families, and it is something that most of us know little about.  Just think about the amount of ads on the telly!… Maybe we can join Ian in campaigning against this cancer in our midst ….

Last words to Ian: ‘As a Christian I have now learnt that I should place my hope in God alone, not gambling! Psalm 62 v 5 says “Find rest, O my soul in God alone; my hope comes from Him”. God has taught me so much over the past few months and continues daily to do so, I have so much to thank him for. Gambling provides a false sense of hope, participants place their hope in winning against astronomical odds. I am now determined to do whatever I can to stand in the breech against gambling in order to help the poor, young and vulnerable.’

If you or somebody you know has a problem with compulsive gambling please get in touch with one of these organisations:

Gamblers Anonymous / GamCare

Neither of these two organisations are explicitly Christian but they do offer very good quality help and support.

Alternatively support is offered by:

The Salvation Army / The Christian Centre for Gambling Rehabilitation / Grasp