Don't dismiss regulation outright: New measures can be a lifeline for gambling addicts

Adam Bradford
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Punters Take A bet On The Grand National
New regulations could mean gambling addicts can't enter bookies (Source: Getty)

The gambling industry has had a hard time lately, with profits suffering with tightening legislation and a number of high profile criticisms from campaigners and the distressed public.

But despite the sector's problems, it is fair to say gambling is on the rise - and the traditional British pastime is becoming a life changing addiction for over half a million people in this country, according to the latest industry figures.

This week, new regulation came into force which means bookmakers must compile local area risk assessments to show how they will protect vulnerable people from gambling-related harm. They must also share data on those who "self exclude", meaning those having problems with gambling can in theory fill out one form and not be allowed to enter a local bookmakers in their area.

These updates are the latest in a sweep of changes and amendments coming from the regulator, the Gambling Commission.

The moves are a positive step in the right direction but the industry still has a way to go.

My father, David Bradford, committed fraud to pay for his 30-year gambling addiction, which spiralled into a colossal £40,000 a year spend and hundreds of thousands of pounds of debt.

He kept the whole ordeal secret, only telling us, his family, that he would be due in court the evening before his sentencing. It was an astounding breach of trust and a side of my dad I never thought existed. Sadly for many hundreds of thousands of people, this kind of story will not be uncommon. We only found out about the horrific truth when the local newspaper splashed his story from court on the front page. We were devastated.

While in prison, my dad felt destroyed, at home we uncovered over 20 credit cards, payday loans and bank loans going back years. He was in a dire financial mess, desperately trying to gamble his way to that "big win" - although I don't think a big win would have cured his problems. It was an emotional ordeal, with me, a 21-year-old, taking over the mortgage and household bills. You never think in your early years you will end up looking after your father and the rest of your family.

He said there was no lifeline for him.

"I have nothing left now. I'm glad to see recognition of the problem: the industry can and should do more to protect its players and become more sustainable long-term. I'm finding it so hard to rebuild my life - regulation has not caught up with the speed of the industry's growth." He is now back home, trying to repay over £500,000 of debt, salvage the family home and rebuild trust.

Businesses in general are under a lot of pressure to deliver, benefitting both their shareholders and society. It is no longer enough to just monetise a product without thinking deeply about its impact on society.

So this increase in regulation around on- and offline betting will help the industry to capture potential gambling addicts before they fall, as well as cleaning up their image among those who have been burned by a gambling addiction. In the longer term, this will help open the doors for greater support for addicts and mean the businesses in the industry can more sustainably build up to a future which delivers both profit and protection for players.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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