Gambling laws need updating as addicts can place bets “within five minutes” of waking up using smartphones, a recovering gambler has said.
Jordan Webber became hooked with online sports betting after his first flutter saw him blag a “tidy bit of cash”, but the hobby spiralled out of control during the Covid lockdowns.
“I’ve never gone into a betting shop, I’ve always done it online. My first bet was Real Madrid v Man Utd when an advert came up at half time - Sky Bet - and I thought I’d give it a go.
“I won £400 from a fiver - a tidy bit of cash at the time. It spiralled from a bit of a flutter to spiralling massively out of control during Covid.”
Mr Webber was furloughed during the pandemic and taking home 80% of his usual salary. He thought placing bets could earn him some extra cash to make ends meet.
He said: “It’s really easy now. I can wake up and within five minutes I can put a bet on.
“It’s really simple now with how easy you can do it, just with a simple tap of a few clicks here and there. It was during the first couple of weeks of Covid that I realised I had a problem.
“You use gambling to win more money because you think as a typical football fan you know what’s going to happen and you know the result but it doesn’t always work like that.
"You’re already struggling with your bills and then partner that with gambling and it became really, really bad. That’s when I realised I had a problem because I wasn’t able to pay the standard bills that I was paying before."
Reminders of gambling, such as adverts and signs in stadiums are “everywhere”, Mr Webber says, which compounded his addiction further. “It was coming to the point where I couldn’t watch the Swans without putting a bet on,” he said.
He added that the key to tackling his gambling problem was speaking out. It was when he got to the point he could no longer pay his rent, his dad confronted him.
“I never felt so small in my life,” Mr Webber said.
“I was burning bridges but I was lucky I have a very supportive family. Speaking to my family about it was the best thing I ever did. The minute you get it out there, it opens up so many doors. I’ve had people come up to me and ask, 'how did you get out of these ruts?' and the first thing I ask is, 'have you spoken to anyone about it?'”
In 2020, Swansea City became the highest profile football team to ditch gambling companies from advertising on their shirts. Mr Webber hopes other clubs will follow suit.
Research by the Universities of Sheffield and Glasgow found that children, young people and those already vulnerable to the risks of gambling are particularly highly influenced by gambling advertising.
Italy has a total ban on advertising gambling and in December, Belgium’s parliament approved legislation which will see a similar ban there.
A long-awaited Westminster review of the 2005 Gambling Act is due to be published in the coming weeks. The gambling industry is fearful the white paper could introduce new regulations on an industry which has previously been largely self-regulating.
'No causal link between advertising and addiction'
The Betting and Gaming Council says 22.5m adults in the UK enjoy a bet every month, whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, having a game of bingo, visiting a casino, playing online or having a wager on football, horseracing and other sports.
A spokesperson said: “We are encouraged by the latest figures from the independent regulator, the Gambling Commission, which show the rates of problem gambling among UK adults is 0.3% – down from 0.4% the year previous.
“We believe enhanced spending checks should be used online to identify those at risk, so swift interventions can take place. But it is essential this is targeted so it doesn’t interfere with the vast majority who gamble safely and responsibly.
“The Government has previously stated research did not establish a causal link between exposure to advertising and the development of problem gambling.
“Betting advertising and sponsorship must comply with strict guidelines and safer gambling messaging is regularly and prominently displayed. BGC members devote 20% of TV and radio ads to safer gambling messages, including promoting safer gambling tools.
“We urge Government to publish gambling reforms as soon as possible, but any changes must not drive customers towards the growing unsafe, unregulated black market.”
BeGambleAware offers advice and support for anyone struggling with gambling problems. There is also a freephone 24-7 National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133
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