There are few industries where the owner of a business spends a great deal of time and effort in persuading his customers not to buy the product he sells. But gambling is one of those such businesses. The way in which the gambling sector has adopted the social responsibility charter in the UK as laid down by the Gambling Commission is truly remarkable.
Gambling has adopted the policies with a religious fervour such that anyone who speaks against it is deemed to be ‘out of touch’ and ‘living in the past’.
When sampling first began, addictive play was recorded at 0.7% in the UK. It then fell to 0.6% and now it is 0.5%. There has been some progress but not enough it seems to have satisfied the Gambling Commission. The new mantra is to prevent addictive play before it happens.
All of this ties into the Triennial Review of FOBTs in betting shops. Operators who do not own betting shops – casinos and the internet-only operators – want stringent controls. Their concern for addictive players is no doubt unrelated to the opportunity to have a competitive advantage over the betting shop.
There was an interesting article written by John Authers in the Financial Times about Ed Thorp, the investment guru. Thorp, a mathematical prodigy, went to MIT and to fill in his time he worked out how to beat the dealer at Blackjack. He even wrote a book about it in 1962.
But these days he no longer gambles in casinos. “Blackjack isn’t very interesting because the stakes are so small. If you are used to betting millions in the market, betting a few thousand in the blackjack tables doesn’t mean anything” he told the FT.
That is a point worth noting. If the DCMS reduces the stake on FOBTs, it does not necessarily follow that customers who like to bet £50 a spin will want to bet £10 a spin. They are likely to go elsewhere, probably to the Internet or the casinos.
What I find so disconcerting is the amount of intrusion into people’s personal space and freedom of choice. Do customers really want staff to tell them they are gambling too much? Do they really need to have flagged up on a machine or their phones how much they are staking? At what point should people be responsible for their own behaviour rather than continually blame someone else for their own lack of control. Will those same people ever learn how to control their own lives when intervention stops them from learning?
by Warwick Bartlett
Euromillions winner wants to sue Lotto for ruining her life: