A Reality Check Needed

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Betting on sports, playing online casino and poker is a form of entertainment enjoyed by millions.

For many this statement will be difficult to understand. Over the past 12 months, some of the UK media have portrayed betting as a scourge on society. The justification for doing so has covered many topics – FA Cup live streaming, VIP programs, special bets, delay of customer withdrawals and more.

These topics are often mispresented and poorly explained thus giving the impression that betting is not a legitimate or trusted form of entertainment. For the vast majority of people, it absolutely is and it adds to their experience of watching live sport on TV.

The average bet size for a recreational bettor is £10 – £20, bets two to three time per week, primarily on football or major sporting events. This is the profile for 90% of the online betting public in the UK and who will on average lose 7p in every £1 staked. All players have different preferences on how they like to bet – some place 5-fold accumulators on the weekend football, some on who will score the 1st goal in the big match – and do so in an enjoyable and responsible way.  

Some of the operators who provide betting and gaming products have come in for some strong criticism in the media for their handling of a small minority of customers who have become problem gamblers.

Whilst some of the criticism can be justified there is now a severe lack of balanced debate around many of the issues being discussed. Parliamentary Groups focused solely on gambling related harm with no input from a representative of the betting public; tabloid articles focused on a small segment of players, professional gamblers, that in no way represent the betting public.

There is much to be improved upon to ensure all players are protected and don’t become badly impacted by gambling. The big UK operators have made good strides in the last few years around player protection, but the reality is that they are doing so without any real meaningful legislation in place.

The Gambling Act 2005 is outdated, in need for revision, and until then issues such as affordability checks, data sharing, TV advertising, affiliates, unlicensed operators, white-labels, social media, VIP programs will all remain issues that have an inconsistent approach across the industry.

It is important that the vast majority of players have their voice heard and that betting remains a form of entertainment that doesn’t get taken away by an unbalanced debate that leads to over regulation of the market.

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