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The Guardian view on betting advertising: not during the games | Editorial

Live gambling ads during sporting events prey on the weak. They should not be seen before the watershed The World Cup starts next week, a truly global festival that unites bookmakers all around the planet in pursuit of gamblers’ cash. Whichever team wins on the pitch, the firms which advertise on the virtual hoardings all around it and in the commercial breaks will profit. Sports gambling is a massive business, not just in this country; the more it spreads, the more it seems to be turning into a public health problem and one which is singularly resistant to effective regulation. Technology and austerity combine to make it dangerous in ways which the Labour politicians who liberalised gambling laws in the early part of this century could not have foreseen. There are really only two classes of people for whom gambling has a certain logic: those who can well afford their losses and those who can’t afford not to win because they have no reasonable prospects of making money otherwise. Austerity diminishes, perhaps, the number of people who can really afford to gamble for fun, but greatly increases the number for whom anything less than a miracle seems inadequate. Lotteries sell hope to people who have nothing else. It’s not a coincidence that betting shops cluster in the most deprived areas of our cities, where hardly any other commerce flourishes. At the same time technology has made more compelling, and sometimes compulsive, forms of betting easier to devise and trivial to manufacture. We have seen that in the development of fixed-odds betting terminals, whose destructive powers were at long last curbed last month, when Matt Hancock, the minister responsible, announced that the maximum stake would be lowered from £100 to £2. That was a brave and right decision. These machines are designed to be as hard as possible to walk away from and as easy as possible to play. Continue reading...

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