This has been a topic of conversation for a while now, but there also seems to have been some changes to laws and regulations regarding advertising of gambling companies and sports recently, and I am not the only person to have noticed it.
I am no prude, I am not anti-gambling at all and have accounts with on-line bookies and in my time have been no stranger to betting shops and their unfeasibly small biros and multiple TV screens. Like many things in life, in moderation and as a way of adding a bit of spice to a golf tournament or FA Cup run, a small bet here and there is what many of us do. But the bookies don't make much out of people like me, they need new blood all the time, and what bets are offered is the key that seems to be changing - and the adverts are all about this now.
In "my day" as the phrase goes, you would have a bet on who would win a trophy, which player would be top scorer, and on a Saturday work through the coupon for three results from each section where a quid would return thousands if you got them all correct. They were bets that could take days, or even months to end and get the payout if you were correct, and as I said, there is not a lot of return for the bookie on that. So the bets have changed.
As the trial and conviction of cricketers has shown, there is a market for betting on when a bowler will bowl a no ball. I am no expert, but I would hazard a guess that if you are betting on that, you have some issues that require some serious thought. Football has become the same, and there is clearly money in it, and a lot of money. Spurs were sponsored by an on line casino until recently, and there are many other clubs sponsored by and linked to various gambling sites and companies. It was an email from Spurs that prompted this piece. Arriving in my inbox was what showed as being sent from the club directly, and was headed "Welcome to the Tottenham Hotspur official newsletter". This is usually just some guff about tickets or a sale in the club shop, but this one was different.
There was no news about a new player, a half price bobble hat or even Harrys dog, it was just an advert for Sporting Bet. The official newsletter was just some football bets that were offered to me as a Spurs fan, with a special code to open my account. So the club, who would then get commission for me joining the site and opening my account, are more interested in flogging me stuff than giving any news, which to be honest is no real surprise. When chatting about this with others, the conversation turned to the amount of TV advertising for gambling now. As I write this, while watching Sky Sports, the Newcastle game gets close to half time, and Ray Winstone and his spinning head will soon be on the TV for bet365.
Then the man who has bet on the game being 0-0 after 15 minutes for Ladbrokes, then the others, and throw in a smattering of on line bingo and that is the ad break over.
As the advert says, "it is all about the in play". What this means is betting fast and often. Not a bet on who wins the league, but a bet on how long it will be until the next corner, or which team will get a player booked next. Fast, quick, often. I am sure there are enough psychologists who can explain the link between winning a bet, the feeling of adrenaline and the need to get that back, and that is what Ray is offering everyone, at 2.30 on a Sunday afternoon. While adverts for cigarettes now don't exist, and drink has to have a "drink responsible" message attached to all adverts, the rise in gambling adverts seems to be offering the quick hit unabated, although there is a link to gamble aware at the end of the ads.
A cheeky bet on the football is not going to bring society to its knees, so log on to the website, open your account, and you will more than likely be offered some special deals as well, free bets, free membership to the on line casino and as I saw recently, free credit to play slot machines. As one person referred to it as offering heroin to people for free to get them hooked. High street bookies don't make money on horse racing bets now, their money is from people playing slot machines and electronic roulette in the shop. Much like the on line counterparts where the lure of a bet on Robbie Keane scoring gets you onto the site, and you are then linked to the other areas of the site where you can lose your money far quicker.
As I said, I don't have an issue with gambling per se, it is and should be legal and regulated, but the onslaught of adverts and the association with football especially does give me some cause for concern. I think the regulation could be tighter and clearer on the advertising and marketing, but as it is a growth industry that won't happen.
A long time ago someone said to me "You never see a bookie on a bike" and he was right, and when there is an in play bet option for "Alternative 3 way handicap" betting on a football match, you never will.