We need a conversation about gambling in the United Kingdom.
By Tony Franklin
Gambling in this country is seen in general terms as an acceptable fun activity that millions of people participate in, be it a flutter on the Grand National, the Premiership or the purchase of a lottery ticket. In the UK our seaside towns are associated with amusement arcades and kids having fun on the fruit machines or the 2p sliders in the hope of that illusive win that will make them the envy of their friends. It’s not just restricted to UK seaside resorts though; it’s the same in bowling alleys which typically have large children’s amusement arcades and you can find the children’s fruit machines on motorway service stations as well.
Gambling is all around us, we have non-stop gambling advertising on the television, gambling is online, on our mobile, in the betting shops, in the amusement arcades, in the pub, and in bingo halls amongst other places. We even have subliminal advertising in the form of a Kellogg’s breakfast cereal called ‘Krave Choco Roulette’. Gambling has become well and truly part of British life, gambling has been normalised.
Lurking beneath the surface though are the gambling addicts, and gambling is an addiction like alcohol and drugs. It creates the same adrenalin rush and dopamine release in the mesolimbic pathway in the brain that is perhaps more known about in connection with crack cocaine.
The seemingly innocuous £5 fruit machine that children can play is the perfect creation of the gambling industry looking to maximise its profits both today and in the future on its harder products. It is addiction by design with its fast play, and fun themed play that immerses you into repeat play until you have spent all of your pocket money chasing wins that never quite come round fast enough. Some will grow out of playing them but some will not and will go onto a whole life battle with gambling addiction.
In addition we have an extremely dangerous blurring of lines between gambling and gaming with equally addictive games online that offer in app purchases on platforms such as Facebook and Google Play.
Growing up today is no easy feat; there are lots of pressures and challenges in this fast paced world. To introduce children to gambling seems abhorrent; we wouldn’t let our children try crack cocaine. So why are allowing them to see gambling as fun, harmless, and possibly an easy way to make money that in reality exists only for the owners of the fruit machines?
We are starting to hear all of the tragedy of addiction to harder forms of gambling, such as the FOBTs, online casino gambling, etc but the roots are in the normalisation of gambling that sees so many people take up the activity in the first place.
We need a wider conversation about gambling’s place in our society today and whether we really want to expose our children to such risks.