NHS mental health chief reaches out to gambling firms
Claire Murdoch, the head of mental health services in England, has written to five major betting companies and urged them to do more to tackle problem gambling by removing incentives.
The Betting and Gaming Council has said that it will take action.
The industry body said that it takes its responsibility to customers “incredibly seriously” and that measures such as age-verification checks and a ban on gambling advertisements during football matches had come into force.
A ban on using credit cards to place bets is also on the way and will come in by April 14.
Meanwhile, the Gambling Commission regulator is looking into “bet to view” offers, which are accused of luring fans into gambling by placing bets in order to gain access to live event stream footage.
Betting firms offering live streaming services through their outlets for those who place bets is another incentive that Murdoch has criticised.
Murdoch’s letter to William Hill, BetFred, bet365, GVC and Flutter reads: "I am concerned that offering people who are losing vast sums of money... free tickets, VIP experiences, and free bets, all proactively prompt people back into the vicious gambling cycle which many want to escape.”
Murdoch added that her experience as a nurse meant she had witnessed “first-hand the devastating impact [of gambling addiction] on the mental wellbeing”.
She said: "The gambling industry has a responsibility to prevent the occasional flutter turning into a dangerous habit."
Murdoch also believes that gambling firms are "hijacking sport" through their sponsorship of prominent sports teams.
She said: "The links between the sporting industry and gambling are deeply disturbing, and the tactics used by some firms are shameful.
"It is high time sporting bodies get back to their roots and start focussing on fans and families enjoying watching their heroes play, rather than allowing firms to hijack sport in pursuit of profit."
Roughly 430,000 people in England are thought to have a gambling problem, with 14 NHS clinics specialised in treating such addiction now planned to be opened.