Gambling In Football: A Growing Epidemic

Cam  McAdam

TW: This article discusses suicide.

You’ve probably seen them before. Whether it’s on the illuminated advertisement boards, on the club kits, or even on your screen during half time. Betting adverts are everywhere when you watch football, with 9 Premier League clubs currently having a betting sponsor somewhere on their shirt. But should this be a problem? Does it have an impact on people’s mental health or is it just some fun with your mates?

A similar debate has already been seen before. Looking back in time, some of the best Premier League sides have had alcohol sponsors put on shirts. Notably, Liverpool’s Carlsberg shirt (2005) which was used in their Champions League victory in Istanbul. Leeds United Strongbow kit (2001) was another famous kit that helped lead them to 4th place that season. It wasn’t until 2017 that the Premier League announced it would have no clubs with an alcohol sponsor. This was to promote healthy lifestyles to fans and reduce the amount of underage drinking. The same has yet to be applied with betting advertisements, despite it causing much greater financial and mental well-being problems. Is this a double standard? One industry that causes adverse health effects is a danger, but another has adverts plastered all over the stadiums. It is upsetting to see the lack of care that clubs or governing bodies have when large sponsorship deals are made.

Many companies like Bet365 and W88 are well known shirt sponsors for Stoke City and Newcastle United, but their playful names are just glamorous decoys to attract people into betting. Some people believe that betting is a very serious problem and can become easily addictive, especially amongst young people. A recent statistic presented by the Gambling Commission showed that 14% of 11–16 year-olds had gambled in the past week! This emphasises how young people can be influenced so easily; their minds can be bent into the shape of whatever the advertiser wants them to believe. This stat is thought to be because of the increased online betting websites and phone apps like BetOnline or Rainbow Riches. Prior to these services, every bet made was at the bookkeepers or over the counter, which would filter out any underaged betting.

If more people were winning, then all the casinos would close

The way these companies entice people in is through free bets given by the company, like “play with £20 free”, and after a few wins you have more confidence to use your own money. Although, as you start to go into your own pockets you’re never likely to win overall as you keep betting. If more people were winning, then all the casinos would close. Another way a gambling house will lure you in is by having short time offers; good odds on a select few amount fixtures that will get you hooked in. This is done all the time in business to attract customers with things like 2-for-1 deals and deals only open for a limited time. People don’t like their freedoms taken from them, making them more likely to make a purchase, which applies in betting.

It is estimated that 500 people commit suicide each year due to gambling…

The tragic suicide of Kimberley Wadsworth, 32, in 2018 was a prime example of how gambling can spiral out of control. She blew £32,000 on casinos in the space of 2 weeks from a gambling addiction which started in 2015. But Wandsworth is just one of thousands of people who are struggling with gambling addictions. It is estimated that 500 people commit suicide each year due to gambling, a particularly chilling fact.

A YouGov poll suggested, a record 1.4 million Brits are considered to have a gambling problem and under half of them have received any treatment for it. It can easily be said that gambling ruins lives financially; money wasted could have been used for a rainy day or in a more productive way such as paying a student loan, paying off a mortgage, or potentially paying towards a pension. This statistic is compounded by the fact that personal debt in the UK has reached an all-time high, which makes it even more important to be sensible with your money.

…a reported 76% of people make a loss on [contracts for differences]

It doesn’t end there with betting. Trading companies like Southampton’s sponsor E-toro offer flashy investments with risky financial instruments and CFDs (contracts for differences). This is essentially gambling on the stock market with a higher risk, which could result in even greater losses than buying shares. Through these CFDs, a reported 76% of people make a loss on them. What’s more, advertisements are typically aimed at younger fans, of whom are more likely to be encouraged to invest if Danny Ings wore E-toro on his sleeves.

For many people, match day betting can be seen as some light-hearted fun between mates on the weekend, and if you win you’re quid’s-in! It’s a great way to socialise and take interest in the weekends matches that otherwise you wouldn’t care about. For others it’s the adrenaline of winning, the feeling of gambling money for a bigger return is great, even with small amounts. This was demonstrated when a study conducted by BrainJuicer found that people winning about £163,000 received the same amount of happiness levels in the brain as hearing the words ‘I love you’ for the first time. This shows how great the sensation is to win large sums of money and how exciting the rush can be.

The Senet group is one of many betting councils in the UK. ‘When the fun stops, stop’ was a campaign they setup in 2015 to promote responsible betting and to ensure that people are having fun whilst betting, not being put at financial risk. This has also been championed by numerous football league teams with lots of signs to inform people about responsible betting on a matchday.

With such little to do in lockdown many think that betting is a good way to escape, people need something to look forward to and get excited about in times where there is such little hope. Personally, I think there should be more curtailments on betting adverts in football. I don’t think there is anything wrong with betting itself, although if something like alcohol is banned on shirt sponsors, gambling should be as well. What kind of message does it send to people if it isn’t banned? That betting isn’t a problem in this country, when the reality is that it’s a bigger problem than it’s ever been.

Cam McAdams

Featured image used courtesy of 0Four via Flickr. No changes were made to this image. Image use license here.

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