Time to stop bookies playing with people's lives, says MICHAEL GRADE

The British have always enjoyed a flutter.
For most of us, gambling is a harmless bit of fun that creates employment and generates revenue for the Treasury. 

But there is a dark side to this industry. Gambling can also be a toxic product. It requires serious regulation, backed up by the force of law. 

Today the House of Lords select committee on gambling, which I chair, publishes a major report into the scourge of gambling addiction, making 66 clear recommendations for the Government as to how to improve the industry. 

A 2016 report from the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank found that problem gambling was costing the country £1.2billion per year, quite apart from the terrible impact on people’s lives. 

When I became chairman of the committee last year, I was shocked to discover about 300,000 people in Britain are struggling with gambling addiction. 

About two million more are affected by their connection to problem gamblers: families, friends and employees.

1 week agoOn average, more than 300 people with gambling problems commit suicide in Britain every year. 

A stock image of a man devastated at losing at the slot machines. Lord Gray said there is a 'dark side' to the gambling industry and that it requires serious legislation

A stock image of a man devastated at losing at the slot machines. Lord Gray said there is a 'dark side' to the gambling industry and that it requires serious legislation

A stock image of a man devastated at losing at the slot machines.

Lord Gray said there is a ‘dark side’ to the gambling industry and that it requires serious legislation

That’s about one a day and, overwhelmingly, these are young men. Our committee spoke with many families who had lost loved ones.
It is unutterably tragic, and there is no excuse for any failure to implement safeguards now. 

It will save lives. So why have things become so serious? For one thing, problem gambling has been made far worse by the advent of the smartphone.

In your pocket you have a machine that allows you, should you wish, to gamble all day, every day. 

Anyone can sit on their sofa and lose thousands of pounds just by tapping at a screen. 

The regulatory regime for gambling was put together in an analogue age and has not caught up with this digital revolution. I’m reluctant to draw parallels between gambling addiction and alcohol abuse, but there is one telling difference. 

An alcoholic will usually reach a point of stupor, and stop drinking for the night. A gambler can keep going much longer, during every waking moment, thanks to the ever-present availability of gambling websites. 

On a smartphone, the bets come at terrifying speed.

Every turn of the card or spin of the wheel is fast; the games are designed to give rapid gratification. 

If you have a proclivity to addiction this is especially dangerous. One of our key recommendations is that speed of play online should be the equivalent of real-world play.
In a casino, minutes elapse between spins of the roulette wheel, as the croupiers collect and pay out bets and before more bets are placed and the wheel goes round again. 

Online, it is mere seconds between spins. The talented programmers that design online games deliberately build addictiveness into the gameplay. 

They make them as attractive as possible, and now the regulator, 자동차보험추천 the Gambling Commission, must act to reduce the harm this is causing.

Before games get their stamp of approval, they should be assessed not just for fairness, as they are now, but for addictiveness. It’s time the regulators became proactive. 

Most of the laws and regulations necessary to deal with problem gambling are already in place — but are not used.
They must also guard much more stringently against games designed to appeal to children. About 55,000 problem gamblers are under 16, a situation that is self-evidently illegal. 

The procedures for verifying a player’s age online are clearly not effective.

The Gambling Commission does not need to wait for Parliament to tell them how to tackle that: the necessary laws are already in place and must be put into practice immediately. 

We have serious concern about how children are drawn into online gambling, for example by popular video games such as Fortnite and World Of Warcraft. 

We have serious concern about how children are drawn into online gambling, for example by popular video games such as Fortnite and World Of Warcraft, writes Lord Gray

We have serious concern about how children are drawn into online gambling, for example by popular video games such as Fortnite and World Of Warcraft, writes Lord Gray

We have serious concern about how children are drawn into online gambling, for example by popular video games such as Fortnite and World Of Warcraft, writes Lord Gray

These virtual worlds offer young players the chance to buy so-called ‘loot boxes’, lucky dips offering random prizes such as new powers or better weapons for the characters on-screen. 

There’s no skill involved.

Purchasing a loot box is simply a game of chance — played with real money. A survey by the Gambling Commission in 2018 found that 31 per cent of children aged 11-16 had paid for loot boxes. One gamer told MPs that he was spending up to £1,000 a year on them in a single console football game. 

Simply put: this is gambling targeted at children. I find it deeply disturbing.

The Netherlands and Belgium have already taken steps to regulate loot boxes. We must follow suit. 

There is absolutely no reason why most of our proposals could not be implemented tomorrow. For instance, our committee heard of cases where people, recognising they had a gambling problem, told the betting websites they desperately wanted to quit. 

They pleaded to be excluded — but the response of the site operators was to entice them back with free bets and bonuses.

Also worrying is the absence of financial assessments for new and existing customers. 

The banks have indicated they will be happy to comply with ‘affordability checks’ in the industry, which are common for anyone taking out a loan or a credit card.
This would screen out gamblers who could not afford to rack up huge losses. 

Once again, there is no reason why these should not be implemented now. Yet because the regulator does not come down hard enough on the gambling industry, the betting sites have been allowed to exploit the most vulnerable in society. 

The costs in livelihoods and human lives has been all too great.

Tragically, the bigger the problem a gambler has, the bigger the profit the operator stands to make. 

Another area of increasing concern is the prevalence of gambling ads in football.

Once, people went to the game for the spectacle, but increasingly football is a betting market, like horse racing.
With ads on shirts, sponsored stadium names, television adverts and logos on hoardings around the pitch, betting and football are increasingly treated as natural partners. This is wrong. 

The relationship between gambling and soccer must be brought to an end.

For the Premier League, that should happen immediately. In the lower leagues, where the economic situation is worse, the clubs should have three years to wean themselves off. 

The industry will claim this is impossible — to which I say we were warned F1 motor 다이렉트 자동차보험 racing would die without tobacco sponsorship, but when the cigarette ads were banned, the races continued. 

When I was appointed to head the allparty parliamentary committee, I was struck that its 12 members held very different individual views on this subject. 

Yet we ended up with a unanimous report, shocked at what we had found.

We are not against gambling. For many, it is fun and part of our culture. But we must no longer ignore the dark side. The price in lives is too high. 

Lord Grade is chairman of the select committee on the social and economic impact of the gambling industry and a former executive chairman of ITV