Harm done by gambling firms' grip on sport must be tackled | Blaise Tapp

Broadly speaking, the highlights of my life nearly all involve sporting events.Be it cup finals, last-ditch relegation escapes, international encounters, Six Nations dust-ups and an unforgettable trip to the London Olympics, I have built up enough of a back catalogue of fond memories to sustain me through the darkest of times.

Friday, 24th January 2020, 3:15 pm
Betting stalls at Cheltenham Racecourse. Pic: Simon Cooper/PA Wire

If I go to the match with my kids, pies and a trip to the club shop are always involved. On grown-up days, more than the odd pint is an essential part of the fun.

Rituals are very important to sport lovers and, for many, this includes having a flutter.

Although I occasionally put a bet on the Grand National and during Cheltenham, it has never been a prerequisite for my enjoyment of sport.

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Latest figures show Britons spend the best part of £15bn on gambling.

For millions it is something they can switch on or off, depending on whether they have the funds for this particular pastime.

Sadly, this is not the case for everyone, and in the UK alone there are at least 400,000 people who are considered to be problem gamblers with another 500,000 at moderate risk of becoming addicted to placing a bet .

These figures should be of real concern to society but genuine change has been slow to come. It was recently announced that the use of credit cards on gambling websites would be banned this year. While welcome, it shouldn’t have taken until 2020 for this to happen.

As shown by the embarrassing revelation that rights to some FA Cup games were sold to a gambling firm’s subscription-only website, money talks in sport and in football bookmakers have a huge and lucrative influence over the national game.

I have never understood why there is not more of a fuss about bookmaker adverts on television. Tobacco and gambling are potentially bad for one’s health, yet only one is subject to an advertising ban. The current ‘health warnings’ on gambling ads don’t serve as a great deterrent to those with a problem.

Gambling brings pleasure to millions of people, but more needs to be done to recognise the harm it can do a significant number.