From the Gambling with Lives website at gamblingwithlives.org
“Gambling with Lives was set up by the families and friends of young men who have taken their own lives as a direct result of gambling. These were all very normal, bright, popular and happy young men who had great futures ahead of them … gambling was their only problem.
Their deaths were very sudden – “out of the blue” with no warning. They were not the result of massive gambling debts, rather what gambling had done to their hearts and their heads.
No one knows how many deaths are related to gambling each year; but research indicates that are between 250 and 650 gambling related suicides every year in the UK … a minimum of one every working day.
Gambling with Lives aims to support families who have been bereaved by gambling related suicides; and to raise awareness amongst gamblers, their families and friends, and health professionals of the dangerous effects of gambling on mental health and the high suicide risk.”
Gambling with Lives receives no funding from the gambling industry – directly or indirectly.
Charles Ritchie, one of the founders of Gambling with Lives, said “Lewes FC are a very special club whose principles and values extend way beyond the football field. We are delighted that they will be wearing our logo and look forward to working with them to help to change football’s relationship with gambling.”
“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” George Orwell
Would you tell a young or vulnerable person in your care to spend more of their time and money gambling?
If not, then why are we letting gambling companies tell them that, for hour after hour, week after week, year after year?
Since the Gambling Act 2005 came into force, gambling companies have been able to advertise across all media in Great Britain. Before that, few if any football clubs carried gambling advertising on their shirts and no league was sponsored by a gambling company. Gambling wasn’t being promoted to young and vulnerable people through football to any great extent.
Fifteen years on, gambling advertising is everywhere in football.
There are 44 teams in the top two divisions of men’s football, the Premier League and the Championship. Of these, 27 have a gambling company on their shirt front. Most leagues throughout the pyramid, and extending far into non-league football, have a gambling company as their lead sponsor.
In 2004 a young person watching football saw little advertising for gambling.
In 2019 a young person watching football sees advertising for gambling all the time.
Further, even someone playing a football video game such as FIFA sees gambling advertising on the fronts of the shirts in the game all the time.
The current situation encourages young people to think of betting on football, and betting in general, as normal, harmless, fun. If there was a problem with it then why would their heroes be wearing shirts encouraging them to do it? Why would that be allowed?
Of course, we all know that in fact it isn’t harmless. The combination of betting adverts being plastered all over football and immediate access to online betting through smartphones is enormously powerful. [Would the betting companies bid more than anyone else for clubs’ shirt fronts if it wasn’t?] This is social media addiction on steroids.
Sports betting is still illegal in most states in the USA. Yet here if our kids want to watch their favourite team play football, or even to play their favourite video game, we have to accept that they will have gambling advertised to them continually.
This doesn’t just result in people losing more money betting than they otherwise would [and remember, the Securicor vans only collect from betting shops; they don’t need to drop cash off there: the house always wins].
The consequences can be far more severe:
-Suicide rates in problem and at-risk gamblers are far higher than in the general population. A recently-published study showed that 5% of problem gamblers attempted suicide in the last year – 8 times the rate for the general population.
-International studies indicate that between 5% and 10% of all suicides are gambling related.
-A recent Swedish study found that suicide rates increased 15-fold for people diagnosed with a gambling disorder.
We also note that, per the most recent Gambling Commission study:
-Over the past 12 months, 39% of 11-16 year olds have spent their own money on gambling
-Approximately 450,000 11-16 year olds in the UK gamble every week, spending around 60% of their pocket money on gambling
-Around 150,000 11-16 year olds are already classified as “problem” or “at risk” gamblers.
Across the wider population around two million people are problem or at-risk gamblers, and PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that around 60% of betting companies’ online profits come from such gamblers.
Young people themselves know that it isn’t harmless. In the same survey quoted above 59% of 11-16 year olds said that they think gambling is “dangerous”.
When even our kids are telling us that something is dangerous, and we know that they’re right, then our role is to protect them, and to protect all young and vulnerable people. Not to tell them that it’s actually normal, and fun, and to wear shirts advertising it, but to protect them.
We in football have a collective duty of care to all fans, and particularly to young and vulnerable people. Can we really say hand on heart that we’re all living up to that duty of care right now? None of us intended that we should be in our current predicament, but here we are. And it’s on us to deal with it.
How do we in football live up to our duty of care?
We think that in the immediate term the existing regulation should be applied more effectively; and that the FA should extend its safeguarding and mental health focus to cover gambling advertising more explicitly and more extensively.
Beyond that, we all need to ask ourselves whether the football world was better or worse when there was no gambling advertising in it. And if we think it was better, what is the quickest and most effective route back to that state?
We are a community club.
All football clubs are community assets.
Let’s stop failing our communities on gambling advertising.
“The existing regulation should be applied more effectively”
The Advertising Codes governing the sector in the UK aim to ensure, among other things, that gambling adverts do not:
• […] condone or encourage gambling behaviour that […] could lead to financial, social or emotional harm
• exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of children, young persons or other vulnerable persons
• feature anyone gambling or playing a significant role in the ad if they are under 25 years old (or appear to be under 25)
How does a young person watching an idolized young footballer excel in a shirt with a betting company on the front of it not breach that code?
“The FA should extend its safeguarding and mental health focus to cover gambling advertising more explicitly and more extensively”
The FA knows that gambling advertising isn’t harmless. It prohibits gambling advertising at youth games and on youth kits. But of course most young people don’t spend their time watching youth games – they watch adult football, which is plastered in gambling advertising.
We applaud the FA’s recent focus on safeguarding, and consider that there is an opportunity for them to step up and protect young people here. We think that the FA President, the Duke of Cambridge’s efforts to “start the biggest ever conversation on mental health” in football via the Heads Up campaign, with its particular focus on young male suicide, could usefully encompass the impact of gambling.