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“It can be life threatening, people have taken their own lives from it” Gambling Counsellor Abi Howells on the impacts of gambling addictions.

Gambling in sport is one of the most normalised parts of British culture, however so many people are unaware of the dangers it poses.

The numbers spent on gambling in the UK are mind boggling, with a reported £3.3 billion spent on gambling between April 2022 and March 2023., according to Finder.

Finder also reported that 44% of UK adults participate in gambling, meaning the average person spends £141 a year on betting.

Abi Howells, a Gloucestershire based counsellor that specialises in gambling, offered her thoughts on gambling culture in the UK.

“I think it’s quite scary and a lot of people don’t understand the dangers of it and how it can quickly go from something that you do for fun with your mates to something potentially life-threatening. I just think it’s quite sad, really. And all the big companies that promote it are essentially profiting off addiction, which is really sad. It’s the same with smoking and alcohol. It’s part of the culture isn’t it? Anyone can be a victim of it as well.”

Last month’s Cheltenham Races festival is one of the UK’s biggest sporting events, and also the week in which some of the most money is spent on bets. 

Photo from this year’s Cheltenham Race Week.

An article from Racing TV outlined an estimated £500 million would be placed on bets over the course of the week 

Howells spoke about race-goers and whether more people speak up about their problems during Cheltenham Race week;

“It’s very unlikely that whilst people are in their active addiction, they’re going to be in a state of denial and they’re not in a place to accept that it is a problem. So they’ll be at the races and that’s not going to be the time when they’re thinking, oh this is actually ruining my life, , for a lot of people it might take them years and years to come to a place where they acknowledge that they need help.”

A recurring problem amongst the gambling industry is the exposure of apps to younger audiences, with adverts for William Hill and Bet365 amongst the most shown on TV.

Howells outlined content creators that produce content which exposes younger audiences to gambling without any restrictions to stop them watching. 

“There’s a few YouTubers and like Twitch streamers that do gambling streams, Streamers xQc and Aiden Ross and people like that, they get paid by gambling companies to gamble online and that’s terrifying to me because you’ve got kids as young as 12 years old looking at this and watching them win millions of pounds. So I think the influence of that sort of culture would make young people maybe more exposed to it than they usually would be without that.”

Online betting is the biggest contributor to the UK’s gambling spend, with BBC news reporting in 2018 that 38% of all spending was on online betting. 

Howells touched on how betting apps impact the culture of gambling in the UK.

“For gambling companies to help their customers would mean helping them to bet less frequently and to bet less money, which would then mean they’re making less profit. So the companies directly profit from people making bad decisions. The few attempts that they do make to help customers by putting limits on, they might have a little warning message at the bottom. home, that’s just a token act of pretending to look like caring because of public relation type thing.”

“It’s not genuine, because if it was genuine they wouldn’t exist in the first place”.

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