The NHS today calls for an end to the ‘shameful’ betting bribes behind a devastating national crisis.
Its mental health chief has written to bookmakers to warn the Health Service can no longer ‘pick up the pieces’ from gambling addiction.
Claire Murdoch says the link between betting and mental illness is ‘increasingly clear’ and the prevalence of gambling in society is ‘causing harm’. In the letter, she savages the predatory tactics that ‘turn the occasional flutter into a dangerous habit’.
These include bet-to-view live streaming of sporting events, pervasive advertising, free offers and VIP experiences for big-spending customers.
The NHS today calls for an end to the ‘shameful’ betting bribes behind a devastating national crisis (stock image)
Mrs Murdoch says the NHS has been forced to open 14 gambling addiction clinics in a £2.3billion investment in mental health but industry-wide action is now needed. ‘For seven decades the NHS has adapted services in response to current challenges,’ her letter says. ‘But we should not be expected to pick up the pieces from lives damaged by avoidable harm.’
NHS mental health chief Claire Murdoch savages the predatory tactics that ‘turn the occasional flutter into a dangerous habit’. These include bet-to-view live streaming of sporting events (pictured), pervasive advertising, free offers and VIP experiences for big-spending customers
The letter, which has the backing of ministers and MPs, has been sent to the chief executives of Britain’s biggest gambling companies, including Bet365, Ladbrokes Coral, William Hill, Paddy Power and BetFred.
The firms have agreed to meet Mrs Murdoch for a summit on the issue of problem gambling, which is linked to self-harm, depression, anxiety and suicide.
The landmark intervention follows a campaign by the Daily Mail to highlight the dangers of gambling addiction and the aggressive tactics used by some firms to keep customers hooked.
Last week, the Mail revealed that the Football Association had struck a £750million agreement allowing seven UK betting firms to stream cup matches.
Boris Johnson was among those to condemn the FA’s TV deal, which is now being probed by the gambling watchdog. And yesterday football bosses were hauled to Parliament for a meeting with sports minister Nigel Adams and arts minister Helen Whately.
Mrs Murdoch told the Mail: ‘The links between the sporting industry and gambling are deeply disturbing, and the tactics used by some firms are shameful.
‘It is high time sporting bodies get back to their roots and start focusing on fans and families enjoying watching their heroes play, rather than allowing firms to hijack sport in pursuit of profit.’
The growth of gambling in football has gone hand in hand with an aggressive push into online betting by gambling firms. Experts believe this has led to a public health crisis, with 430,000 problem gamblers in England, including 55,000 children.
Big losers are enticed to keep gambling with a dizzying array of VIP perks and cash rebates.
Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan said: ‘The Government is absolutely committed to protecting vulnerable people from the risks of gambling-related harm, and will be carrying out a review of the Gambling Act to ensure it is fit for the digital age.’
Boris Johnson was among those to condemn the FA’s TV deal, which is now being probed by the gambling watchdog
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on gambling harm, added: ‘Enough is enough, this country can no longer put up with the devastating and tragic consequences of gambling. It has become a major public health crisis.
‘I fully support the NHS for taking on gambling firms. They need to be brought into line and all these stricter measures should be signed into law. We wouldn’t license a drug dealer, so why do we license gambling firms.’
The landmark intervention follows a campaign by the Daily Mail to highlight the dangers of gambling addiction and the aggressive tactics used by some firms to keep customers hooked
The Betting and Gaming Council, which represents bookmakers, said in a reply to the letter: ‘We take our responsibility to our customers incredibly seriously and we are determined to raise standards and improve safer gambling.’
The council said it had already implemented measures including new age-verification measures, bans on advertising during sports matches and waiving their exclusivity to FA Cup matches.
It added: ‘On behalf of the chief executives I would very much like to invite you to meet with us at the earliest opportunity to discuss your concerns, what we are doing to raise standards in our industry and to ensure safer gambling.’
Ministers are currently reviewing the 2005 Gambling Act and are widely expected to tighten the rules governing how bookmakers operate.
Tactics NHS wants banned
Last week the Mail exposed how FA Cup matches are being streamed live on betting sites to any fan with an account. All other sports are also available on betting sites. Campaigners say this entices fans to gamble and that all ‘bet-to-view’ sports streaming must be banned.
Big-spending punters are courted almost like celebrities. They are turned into VIPs and given ‘incentives’ such as the chance to win FA Cup Final tickets. Last year, the Mail exposed how Paddy Power showers customers with tickets and hospitality at premium sporting events.
Credit card betting
In April, punters will be banned from placing bets with credit cards, preventing them racking up huge debts with money they don’t have. The NHS says this doesn’t come soon enough and firms must voluntarily ban credit cards immediately.
An undercover investigation by the Mail last year at Bet365 headquarters revealed how gamblers are paid to encourage them to keep betting
The toxic relationship between football and gambling has normalised betting among young fans. This season, 27 of England’s top 44 clubs have a gambling company as their shirt sponsor. Companies also frequently sponsor stadiums and advertising hoardings alongside the pitch.
An undercover investigation by the Mail last year at Bet365 headquarters revealed how gamblers are paid to encourage them to keep betting. Big losers are given weekly cash rebates of thousands of pounds.
Free bets and offers
Gambling websites bombard the public with adverts offering free cash and bets to get them to sign up… and keep betting.