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Action Replay: Online Gambling - Getting the Punters Hooked

With online gambling amounting to over £2 billion a year, the number in danger of gambling addiction has grown. There could be as many as one million at risk.

Since online gambling was freed-up by Tony Blair's government in 2005 the gambling firms’ strategy has been to recruit new consumers from the professions (including women). Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, founder and director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, has said more women are gambling than ever before. ‘The introduction of online gambling has brought into the home an activity that was historically male-dominated.’

Betting firms still continue with their traditional working-class betting shop users but want to maximise profits by the introduction of fixed-odds gaming machines. Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins has said: ‘I have been very concerned about alcoholism for a long time, but problem gambling is just as bad.’

Microgaming Software Systems Ltd, created the world's first online casino 20 years ago, and now boasts a multimillion pound turnover. Their website states they are ‘the world's largest provider’ of online gaming software. Ladbrokes and 32Red are among the many online casino operators it supplies. Almost anything can be gambled online 24/7: lottery tickets, bingo, slot machine-style games, poker and football pools plus sporting events worldwide.

Ladbrokes chief executive Richard Glynn has boasted that his company offered up to 800 football matches per week for ‘bet in play’, leading the market with more games to gamble on than any of its rivals.

Ironically, the government risked missing out on increased tax revenues coming from this growth as most of the big-name bookies are based overseas. However, since the end of last year a change in the law has meant that the online business has been obliged to pay an estimated extra £300 million a year in UK taxes.

Charities are critical of celebrities glamorising gambling. The Australian cricketer Shane Warne promotes gambling via twitter while Ray Winstone, the face of Bet 65, regularly features at half-time intervals urging punters to ‘bet in play, now’.

Want an example of the human cost of on line gambling? In 2013 Jack Keylock, 22, from Cheltenham was jailed for 18 months at Gloucester Crown Court. Jack had resorted to burglary to pay debts run up while gambling online.

KEVIN