Gambling logos might be banned from all sports shirts

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In one study, over three quarters of young people and 86 per cent of adults saw betting as a normal part of sport. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

When I was first in practice I looked after a family who faced a major problem.

Their teenage son was addicted to slot machines. If they gave him dinner money, he would leave school and head to the arcades.

This addiction is even worse today with online gambling. 

The statistics are frightening. It is estimated that there are 55,000 children in the UK addicted to gambling. 

In 2018, the Gambling Commission found that two per cent of boys and 1.3 per cent of girls had a gambling addiction. 

Problem gambling is twice as common among 16-to-24 years olds as in the general population.

Adult gamblers can get into debt and believe they can solve their problems by gambling. The next win will solve everything. 

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Even if they do win something the desire to gamble means it goes back into a bet.

They lie to their family and friends as the debt spirals out of control. They can lose their job and family and even commit crime. It has been estimated that every day two gambling adults take their lives.

In one study, over three quarters of young people and 86 per cent of adults saw betting as a normal part of sport.

After the Gambling Act 2005, the number of gambling advertising spots on TV increased from 152,000 to 1.39 million in 2012. 

I am uneasy when I watch football and see betting advertised everywhere. 

If Torquay United can get promoted this year they will end up in the 'Sky Bet' League Two. 

The top two leagues, the Premiership and Championship benefit from £110 million a year just from shirt sponsorship. 

Last year, half the Premier League and 16 out of 24 Championship teams had shirts sponsored by gambling companies.

Fortunately, the Government is considering a crackdown. Gambling logos might be banned from all sports shirts which would not only affect football but also snooker, darts, boxing and rugby league.

It would be the largest shake up since the ban on tobacco advertising.

Simply banning shirt logos would be welcome but not enough. One study showed that most of the advertisements for betting in the Premier League on BBC and Sky was on the electronic billboards.

There are considerable similarities between drug and gambling addiction. 

The most addictive drugs give a quick 'hit' and wear off quickly with the addict wanting more. Gambling addiction has the same profile.

The most addictive gambling gives a quick thrill before almost instantly wearing off. And so online gambling or fixed odds betting terminals are more addictive than the National Lottery when people wait several days for the result.   

The adverts say 'when the fun stops, stop' although study from Warwick University in 2019 showed that the slogan is ineffective.

So, is it ever safe to gamble?

Most adults drink alcohol but only a few become alcoholics. Deciding to spend £10 betting whether Torquay will get promoted at the end of the season is harmless.

Usually no-one expects to see their £10 again any more than I expect my £9 back after I’ve watched them online.  

I knew one person who would bet on the opposition before an important game. He argued that he’d be happy if they won and, if they lost, at least he had something to cheer him up.

The legendary England goalkeeper Peter Shilton was addicted to gambling for 45 years and has now launched 'Shilton’s shirt gambling ban' to stop betting firms sponsoring the top teams.

Help is available from Gamblers Anonymous and wives can get support from gam-anon. But they can only help if the gambler is ready to change. He needs to make plans; how can he repay debt and return to being a supportive husband and father.

Once it was considered impossible to ban tobacco advertising in sport. The money was too important. The 1948 London Olympics were sponsored by Craven A cigarettes.

Now the whole idea that sport should be sponsored by tobacco seems bizarre.

Let us hope that one day the idea of betting firms sponsoring sport will seem as alien as cigarettes sponsoring the Olympics.