DEMAND AN END TO POVERTY THIS GENERAL ELECTION
TAKE ACTION
Opinion

I’m an NHS psychiatrist – this is my advice to football fans who gamble during the World Cup

With the Qatar World Cup coming during the cost of living crisis, Dr Max Pemberton has some words of advice for people who will be gambling

The World Cup in Qatar coming during the cost of living crisis could be an issue for people gambling, says Dr Max Pemberton. Image: Rhett Lewis on Unsplash

The Qatar World Cup is here and whether you are a season ticket holder or fair-weather fan, football brings people together. Those nail-biting 90 minutes are a time for unity, celebration and fun.

As friends gather to cheer on England’s squad from over 3,000 miles away, many fans at home are also grappling silently with a different, all-encompassing obsession: gambling.

Recent data released by GambleAware – the UK’s leading charity working to keep people safe from gambling harms – found that 43 per cent of football fans plan to bet during this year’s World Cup. A high, but perhaps not wholly surprising statistic. But if you consider that the majority (61 per cent) of football fans think that there are too many gambling adverts in international tournaments, and 39 per cent of fans who are likely to bet during the World Cup say that financial pressures may drive them to gamble more than they intended – there is certainly cause for concern.

Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription

With the cost of living crisis and the sheer volume of matches and gambling promotions during the weeks ahead, football fans could be at an especially high risk of experiencing gambling harms this winter.

As an NHS psychiatrist who has worked with patients experiencing gambling harms, I have seen how they can affect anyone, no matter your background – not just financially, but in terms of mental health and many other impacts. And I’ve seen many people experience that sinking feeling of regret, stress and anxiety that people can experience after making an impulsive bet.

Dr Max Pemberton has issued gambling advice to people ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.

If you are considering betting during the upcoming tournament, there are plenty of ways you can enjoy the football and avoid ‘Bet Regret’. Before football fever takes over the nation, I recommend taking a bit of time this week to think about how you’ll manage your gambling over this period, starting with some simple steps you can take to protect yourself.

Set limits

You might see gambling as harmless fun, but you can easily get carried away. To help prevent things from spiralling out of control, try setting a time or financial limit before you start betting. Decide what your limits are and stick to them. If you find it hard to stick to a self-imposed limit, try using an app or website to help.

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

Walk away from losses

It can be tempting to keep betting after a loss in attempt to win your money back, even if you have exceeded the limit you have set yourself. Walk away! Chasing your losses will usually just lead to bigger losses. 

Avoid temptation

With so much football to come, and so much promotion around gambling, you may be worried about how you can avoid temptation to bet. You can always block notifications from betting apps – or even deleting them altogether.

How are you feeling?

Taking a moment to reflect on how you feel can help you to make the best decisions about whether to gamble or not. It can be easy to bet as a distraction, or to escape something else, but this can make things worse.

Be careful if you are under the influence

Drugs and alcohol make it harder to stick to your limits. If you are under the influence, tell a friend or family member about your gambling and limits, to help you stick to what you have decided. 

Know the warning signs

I know just how quickly a seemingly innocent betting habit can escalate into an acute problem – this can happen to anyone. So if during the World Cup, you find yourself losing track of time while betting, spending more than you can afford, or betting in secret, these are early warning signs – and now is the time to seek support.

By following this advice and being aware of your habits, you can enjoy the World Cup without the stress or anxiety that can come from getting carried away gambling.

If you are concerned about your gambling, or that of a loved one, you can visit BeGambleAware.org for free, confidential advice and support. The National Gambling Helpline is also available on 0808 8020 133 and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Max Pemberton is a medical doctor, journalist and author. He works full-time as a psychiatrist in the NHS.

@MaxPemberton

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Dear Sunak and Starmer: Workplace mental health is too serious to be used as a political football
Poppy Jaman

Dear Sunak and Starmer: Workplace mental health is too serious to be used as a political football

UK's state pension is one of the lowest in Europe. It's the main reason for misery among retirees
state pension/ retirees
Lord Prem Sikka

UK's state pension is one of the lowest in Europe. It's the main reason for misery among retirees

There's no debate – the fate of the UK will not be decided by big mouth over small mouth
John Bird

There's no debate – the fate of the UK will not be decided by big mouth over small mouth

Number of pensioners in poverty will double by 2040 unless next government acts
pensioner poverty
Joanna Elson

Number of pensioners in poverty will double by 2040 unless next government acts

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know