Opinion

A reader writes: gambling companies target the most vulnerable

The saturation of gambling shops in the UK are deliberately geared towards poorer communities, says Mike Hobbins

Boston, Levelling Up

Boston residents are fighting against their market town becoming a 'mini Las Vegas'. Images: Alamy / Illustration: The Big Issue

The Big Issue were right to point out that betting shops have become – in fact, have long been for many decades – the scourge of the high street in almost every town. The figures that are highlighted in your report are truly staggering: £14.1bn, the total UK gross gambling yield from April 2021 to March 2022; £6.4bn from the remote betting, bingo and casino sector; £3.07bn collected by the Treasury on betting and gaming duty receipts during 2021 to 2022; finally, 6219 betting shops in Great Britain.

Numbers on their own, however, do not reveal the whole, devastating picture of ‘gambling saturation’. Take the cases of Boston in Lincolnshire and the Erdington constituency of Birmingham – two of the most deprived communities in the country. It is clear that the most vulnerable in our society (low-paid, debt-ridden and desperate for support) are being targeted by gambling companies such as William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral, Paddy Power, Betfred; multiple betting shops reside on their High Streets, sometimes next door to each other. On top of their physical presence, they all have online platforms/apps that encourage gambling addicts to feed their fix around the clock.

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Gambling addiction harms; gambling addiction kills but ‘we’ (the government) allow the industry to advertise their products openly on Premier League shirts and hoardings, on sports sites and apps. So, why has the government not introduced more stringent regulation, restricting the influence of gambling, and the reach of the associated companies? It must be simply the loss of tax revenue obviously. £3.07bn is not small change, and local council authorities must also see the £-signs when they are deciding planning applications on their High Streets. Government, at national and local level, should listen to Professor Elizabeth Goyder who has just published a paper on the harmful links between advertising and gambling – you have a duty to protect the most vulnerable – the young, the poor and those with poor mental health. Stop allowing betting shops on our streets and remove advertising, now! Kind regards,

Mike Hobbins, Woking

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