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Heartbroken widow decries prevalence of gambling ads in UK society

25 April 2022
Gambling phone football match

The widow of a man who died after developing a chronic gambling addiction has hit out at Britain's permissive approach to betting adverts.

Annie Ashton, whose husband Luke took his own life, said the prevalance of ads in sport and wider society are a constant source of hurt to her and her son and a danger to addicts. Ms Ashton wrote:

"Gambling adverts are everywhere – not just around football grounds and on players’ shirts, but on the radio and on the way to school, magnified on billboards, in magazine inserts, in so many TV ad breaks and all over the internet. There is nowhere to hide.

"The full normalisation of gambling as a fun and risk-free activity is completed by the long list of celebrities who front those ads. From José Mourinho claiming he’s 'the Special One' because he won online, Ray Winstone bellowing at you to bang a bet on, and Keith Lemon offering you a so-called 'free bet', they are hard to ignore."

The mother said an announcement earlier this month that the UK's Committee of Advertising Practice will ban gambling ads featuring celebrities, sportspeople and social media influencers was a "welcome step" but "nowhere near enough". She added:

"Before Luke died, he talked about the relentlessness of gambling adverts. I didn’t know then that he was struggling with a life-threatening illness brought on by the addictive products those adverts sold".

"The way the gambling industry advertises is despicable. It claims to promote 'safer gambling' while using every trick to encourage people to bet. The responsibility is always on the gambler, with safety slogans such as “When the fun stops, stop” or “Take time to think”, but never anything on the real dangers of gambling".

Ms Ashton concluded: "One day I hope I can take my son to see the football, travel with him in the car, sit with him watching TV, and let him scroll the internet or chat to his friends on social media without worrying he is being targeted by a gambling firm."

The UK Government has delayed a whitepaper on gambling reform twice in the last year, with campaigners fearing lobbying efforts by gambling industry representatives are slowing down action to curb gambling-related harms.

CARE is urging the UK Government to consider a wide range of reforms to address spiraling addiction, including among children in the UK. You can learn more about our work here: CARE for Gambling | CARE

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While for some, gambling is just harmless fun, for a significant minority it causes genuine devastation. Our vision is to see laws passed that will help protect vulnerable problem gamblers.

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