Glam-bling – is it right to glamorise gambling in the media

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By Robert Dean

If you watch enough television you should ,by now, know that gambling is all just one big, jolly merry-go-round of pleasure. Poker, bingo, slots, sports betting, it’s all just a licence to print money isn’t it?

The truth is that gambling is a highly addictive pursuit and when not handled responsibly, it can lead to dire consequences. Sound familiar? For these exact same reasons, smoking advertisements were completely banished. So its bye bye Embassy Snooker World Championship and hello Betfred Snooker World championship.

Laws on gambling advertisement are covered by section 17 of the Committee of Advertising Practice’s (CAP) code of conduct.  After reading these codes the one section that stuck out like a sore thumb was section 17.3.6 which reads:

“Advertisements must not suggest that gambling can enhance personal qualities; for example, that it can improve self-image or self-esteem, or is a way to gain control, superiority, recognition or admiration.”

Now this is evident in almost every gambling advert we see today. Take this SuperCasino.com advert for example. Two sharply dressed, young men walk into a casino surrounded by women. Everyone knows them, everyone’s having a good time. It just reeks of the Marlboro Man. Gamble here and you instantly become Mr Cool. Even the soundtrack is there to draw you in. How can lyrics like, “Reaching for the stars, who can blame us”, “VIP status” or “We’re the money makers”, be anything other than a way to promote control, superiority, recognition or admiration.

The CAP code also wishes to protect those who are under the legal age of gambling. Section 17.4.4 says, “Advertisements must not exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of under-18s or other vulnerable persons.”

This, to me, seems a little bit murky. Yesterday I watched a football match on TV  and in a six minute break at half time, there were five different Gambling adverts. This game was on at 12.45 pm on a weekend, so therefore had no restrictions on young people watching. When big stars, like Ray Winstone, are  telling you to “Bet in play. NOW!”, it’s hard to see how this wouldn’t play on people’s susceptibilities.

It is estimated that 350,000 people in the UK have a significant problem with gambling and this constant bombardment of promotional material is only insuring that this will continue for generations to come.

I spoke to Sam Teer, a close friend of mine who has had issues with gambling from a young age. I askedSam to explain how he was first introduced to gambling.

“I started out on fruit machines when I was about 12 years old. Back then it was far less strict on letting under 18s play. I used to get my pocket money and head right down the arcades. After a while I started to think that I had cracked them. I was playing them everyday . I got myself  a paper round to get some extra money to play. Every penny I got went in the fruities. The money didn’t really matter to me anymore, it was all about beating the odds.”

Sam grew up around gambling as his Grandfather was a career Bookmaker and owned his own betting shop. He used to spend whole days as a child in the shop whilst his Grandfather looked after him.

“Granddad never encouraged me to gamble though. Quite the opposite actually. You’d be surprised how much Bookmakers dislike gambling. I suppose it’s because they know the dangers and realise that the odds are always in the house’s favour.”

When he was old enough to start gambling in casinos and bookmakers shops it started to become a problem for Sam. It became a regular occurrence for him to spend in excess of £200, after a night out, purely on gambling. Luckily for him one moment completely changed his outlook on gambling.

“I went to the bookies with a friend. We were in there for about an hour and I had noticed that the lad I was with had been playing the roulette machine for a while and had been leaving shop to go to the cash point quite a lot. I was about £50 down and I wanted to leave so I asked my friend how he’s getting on. He didn’t reply and then 10 minutes later he punched the machine and ran out the shop. I chased after him to see what was wrong with him and when I found him he was throwing up and crying at the same time. He told me he had just done his whole months wages, which was about £1200, in an hour and didn’t know how he was going to pay his rent. That’s when it really hit home that this isn’t joking around on the fruities anymore and I could get in serious trouble if I don’t sort this out. I stopped gambling for a while after that. I’m lucky enough, now, that I’ve reached a stage where I have a much more mature outlook on gambling and can have the odd flutter on the National or the football without getting drawn in.”

To finish I asked Sam what he thought of advertisements that glamorise gambling.

“Well, to be honest, I got hooked when there was no gambling adverts on TV, so I dread to think how I would have turned out if I was a teenager today.”

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