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Shropshire Star comment: Gambling no longer so hidden

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

Secret alcoholics are sometimes exposed when the empty bottles are discovered and the questions get asked.

Addictive gamblers have nothing to hide in the physical sense.

Then they have nothing.

And ultimately, much less than nothing, as they rack up the debts and the first the family might know about it is the arrival of the bailiffs.

While other addictions mess up people’s bodies, gambling messes up their heads and insidiously skews their thinking. What starts as the harmless buzz of taking a punt descends into a dependency in which good money is recklessly thrown after bad.

Alcoholics know another drink is not the solution, but can’t stop themselves. Gamblers on a losing run think further gambling is the solution – with increasing desperation, they convince themselves their luck will change.

Ten years ago there was a television series called Sunshine in which Steve Coogan played a likeable chap being brought down by a gambling problem disguised by compulsive lying and various strategies. When he wins, he is the life and soul of the party. When he loses, there is nobody he will not steal from.

Today, we tell the stories of some ordinary people hooked on this world.

According to deputy Labour leader Tom Watson, gambling is Britain’s hidden epidemic with more than 430,000 problem gamblers in the UK and a further two million at risk.

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There has always been an element of puritanical disapproval of gambling, but at one end of the spectrum it really could be argued that it is a bit of harmless fun.

There has been an explosion of new ways to bet, driven by the rise of online betting and firms using sport as a vehicle.

In contrast to the National Lottery, they offer odds to tantalise and attract the punters.

For children, what once went on mysteriously behind the closed doors of a betting shop is now in your face, online, on television, and made out to be exciting.

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Compulsive gamblers have lost the ability to be responsible, so it falls to the Government to put a heavy burden of responsibility on the gambling industry itself. Otherwise, the addicts don’t have a chance.

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