Since the implementation of the Gambling Act in 2005, bookmakers have enjoyed a new sense of prominence in the U.K. A prime example is the bookmakers’ relationship with the sporting world. When watching the Barclays Premier League, an advertisement break doesn’t go by without Ray Winstone telling me to ‘have a bang on that!’ with the live odds projected on my screen.

Although this may seem reasonably harmless, football and gambling have become increasingly inseparable. Even the friendly face of Jeff Stelling during his weekly Gillette Soccer Saturday programme, has ex-pros taking part in score predictions for Sky Bet’s Soccer Six. Ofcom provides interesting data on the matter as it found the total number of advertisement spots shown in television increased from 152,000 in 2006 to 1.39 million in 2012.

The increased exposure and availability of gambling has proven to be highly profitable for U.K. bookmakers as the British gambling industry generated £6.3 billion between April 2012 and March 2013, a rise of over £0.4 billion compared to the period of April 2011 to March 2012. The bookmakers’ profits are further increased by their exploitation of loopholes in British tax laws, as the vast majority base their headquarters in Gibraltar, where gaming tax is capped at £425,000 per annum. Although the 2005 Gambling Act’s purpose was to further regulate the industry, it appears to have boosted bookmakers’ stature.

But how is this increased exposure affecting Britain’s youth? A survey carried out by ICM on behalf of the Gambling Commission found that although those over the age of 35 were most likely to participate in gambling, there was significant growth in participation between 2012 and 2013 amongst the 18-24 age range, which saw their participation grow from 44 per cent to 49 per cent.  It is clear that if more is not done to educate young people on the dangers of gambling, and in particular gambling addiction, this could have detrimental effects not only on the economy but upon society too.

The sheer availability and access that young people have these days is highlighted by what is known as ‘remote gambling’.  Remote gambling is access through any form of technological device with the most notable being the smartphone. Although bookmakers will argue that precautions are put in place to stop children from accessing their apps, for the modern-day teenager these are easily overcome. Speaking from personal experience, many of my friends, including myself, would place bets through these apps during our sixth form years. It wasn’t until I started university that I discovered a kind of gambling culture amongst students.

Every weekend, the boys from my hall would gather in the common room to watch the football together, with the majority having bets riding on the day’s games. What had started as the odd bet for many, had now transcended into a weekly ritual. The youth gambling culture has been created around sport, acting as a gateway to other forms of gambling. Looking beyond bookmakers’ relationship with sport, the allowance of Fixed Odd Betting Terminals (FOBT) in the bookmakers is another pitfall of the 2005 Gambling Act. The FOBTs have constantly been in the media eye as the Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) achieved on FOBTs was £1.42 billion in 2012. The large presence of the bookmaker shops, particularly in the less developed areas, which contain the FOBTs, are accredited for having negative effects on these local economies. The average weekly profit per FOBT was £825 in 2012, which raises serious questions about the fairness of these machines.

Reviewing gambling regulations must be seen as a key issue to be addressed by our future government. Although not perceived as an immediate problem, particularly in comparison to other current issues, the culture of gambling in the U.K. has the potential to unravel beyond control. If profits continue to rise at current rates and the presence of FOBTs remains, local economies within the U.K. will suffer, as the bookmakers will suck the wealth from these communities.

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