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Shropshire Star comment: Time to get a grip on gambling

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

It’s time to start the conversation about gambling.

Though society has always enjoyed a flutter, be it on card games or dominoes, on football, horse racing or golf, interest has risen to new levels.

Gambling has become absorbed into our society and it’s never been easier to win, or, more accurately, to lose money. Our high streets are dominated by easy-to-use outlets that are ready to relieve gullible punters of their hard-earned cash.

The recent debate about fixed odds betting machines highlighted the problem. And even more recently, we’ve seen dysmorphia in such age-old sporting conquests as golf, where multi-million pound wagers take place in a winner-takes-all environment that is driven by pay-per-view and the gambling industry’s ability to rake in more bets.

The normalisation of betting is a cause for concern. And the manner in which gambling companies advertise through the main stream, targeting impressionable young adults, is pervasive. Football clubs seem to be inextricably linked to the pursuit as it is fashioned as a wholesome, harmless pursuit.

We all know that gambling is nothing of the sort. It is deeply concerning that youngsters are introduced to the pastime from an early age; these days, computer games for young people involve gambling for virtual coins, credits or prizes rather than to test skills or the joy of winning.

Such games sow a seed.

None of this is a problem for most. But for those with a compulsive personality it can be disastrous. Gambling should be treated with the same care as alcohol or smoking.

Tighter regulation has been a hot topic in the House of Commons recently and at a local level Telford & Wrekin Council is running the rule over gambling companies. It is perfectly proper that it should. Officials must assess whether their licensing policies are fit for purpose or whether they should become increasingly rigorous to save people from themselves.

Child protection and helping vulnerable adults must be key to any review, whether at a local or national level.

And we must move away from the position where losing unaffordable sums of money on the turn of a coin or outcome of a sporting contest is deemed normal.

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