The Gambling addict’s cry for help is getting louder!

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An article in The Times caught our eye this week and after reading it, deemed it worthy of being the subject of our weekly blog! We here at Heads&Heads have noticed a growing trend within the mainstream media of highlighting the problem of gambling.

Some of our members have discussed this openly on our forum. The vast majority believe that the highlighting of gambling addiction can only be a good thing for the matched betting industry. Their reasoning comes from the comparison made between matched betting and nicotine patches. For those that have a problem it is there to slowly wean them off their addiction and re-programme the way their brain thinks about said addiction.

Of course, there is no way anyone will accept the fact that matched betting could help problem gamblers without sufficient research. However, the feedback from a few of our members who used to gamble heavily does provide fuel for a debate. The argument is that you still get your fix from placing bets, however because matched betting is about removing risk, an individual is not risking their funds in the process. Now, this may not work for everyone, but there is certainly a conversation to be had here about the role matched betting can play in the recovery of problem gamblers.

Gambling is an easy addiction to brush aside, with drugs and alcohol usually monopolising such discussions. However, it is a rapidly increasing problem that has to be addressed. The number of individuals who request a bookmaker ban them from betting has risen from 30,000 in 2013 to more than 1,000,000 as of last year. It must also be remembered that these are just the individuals willing to ask bookies to ban them – it does not account for those without the willpower to do the same.

This all comes in the build up to a government review of fixed-odds betting terminals this Autumn. For those panicking that this is a full review of the gambling industry, you need not worry. The focus, for the moment, is just on fixed-odds betting terminals that you find in bookmaker shops on the high-street. However, with so many charities speaking out against the all-round effect of gambling, a comprehensive review of the industry may be on the horizon. As it stands, the focus of these charities is very much focused on the bookmakers doing more to help problem gamblers. At the moment, the onus is on the player to exclude themselves, not the bookie – a status quo that many seek to reverse.

Here we see an obvious conflict of interest. Around 40-50% of the bookmaker’s profits is estimated to come from problem gamblers. As a result, it is in the bookie’s interest not to help these individuals and instead have them add to the £14 billion lost by gamblers in the UK last year.

Paddy Power is listed as being one of the most prominent when it comes to customers self-exclusion. This could explain the drop in value we’ve seen recently from Paddy Power Reload offers. However, there is no real way of forming a link between the impending crack-down on bookmakers and the effect it will have on us matched bettors. One would hope that it would stem the flow of gubbings, because with bookmakers ‘required’ to stop serving addicts, their userbase would take a hit. Leading to, perhaps, a weird truce between bookies and matched bettors. Built on the idea that a matched bettor is better than having no bettor at all.

Time will tell on how this all pans out. For now, matched betting will not be affected in any way and hopefully those that need help will receive it. Heads&Heads really does hope to be able to have discussions with charities about problem betting in the future and be considered an alternative solution to this complex issue.