Stadium walks held to call for end to football betting ads

Stadium walks held to call for end to football betting ads

About 300 people, including former gamblers, are taking part in walks calling for an end to betting adverts in football.

A number of MPs and families of addicts who took their lives are also participating in the Big Step walks to local football stadiums this weekend.

Organiser James Grimes said they were encouraging people to contribute to the government review of the Gambling Act.

“We are trying to amplify the voice of people with lived experience,” he said.

About 300,000 adults and 55,000 children in Britain are considered to be problem gamblers, according to the latest data.

Mr Grimes said he gave up a 12-year addiction on his 28th birthday three years ago.

“I lost every single penny I had in the world on a lunch break and went home, cried, hid in my room, turned my phone off for three days, lost my job and I probably was suicidal,” he said.

“I couldn’t imagine a life with gambling anymore and I couldn’t imagine a life without it.”

This weekend’s walks are being held as the government considers restricting bookmakers from sports sponsorship due to concerns that it helps to normalise gambling.

It is part of a review of the 2005 Gambling Act, which has its deadline for evidence on 31 March.

Three-quarters of Premier League teams and 87% of clubs in the Championship have betting sponsors or partners.

More than 7,000 people have signed a petition to end gambling advertising and sponsorship in football, which Mr Grimes hopes to hand over to 10 Downing Street once they get 10,000 signatures.

Their stance was echoed by a landmark House of Lords report in 2020.

Mr Grimes said participants in this weekend’s walks – the fourth in a series of similar events since 2019 – were calling for more action from the government and football industry.

While a whistle-to-whistle ban has stopped betting adverts during live sports TV broadcasts, he also wants a ban on the marketing of gambling firms on pitchside hoardings.

“The reality is children will be watching it,” Mr Grimes said.

He added that his Gambling with Lives charity was getting messages from addicts “on the brink” every week, and there had been an escalation in betting among online gamblers during lockdown, while betting shops were shut.

Both the EFL, which is sponsored by Sky Bet, and the Premier League have said their clubs comply with regulations.

An EFL spokesman said: “While we fundamentally believe that the gambling sector should contribute financially to the game from which it benefits, it is important that operators’ sponsorship agreements with football are activated in a socially responsible manner and seek to protect people from gambling related harm.”

A spokesman for the Betting and Gaming Council said advertising “enables TV channels to broadcast more live action than would otherwise be possible and plays a vital role in differentiating legally licensed operators from those in the unregulated and illegal black market”.

He added that they would “continue our work on further improving standards and promoting safer gambling”.

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