Bishop’s fury at child gam­bling


THOU­SANDS of chil­dren have been turned into gam­bling ad­dicts after be­ing tar­geted by bet­ting firms, a se­nior bishop has claimed.

Dr Alan Smith, the bishop of St Al­bans, plans to raise the “gen­er­a­tional scan­dal” in the House of Lords this week warn­ing that 55,000 chil­dren have already been iden­ti­fied as prob­lem gam­blers.

Dr Smith de­scribed how he was in­spired to cam­paign on the issue after meet­ing par­ents whose son took his own life after fight­ing a gam­bling ad­dic­tion.

He said: “That fam­ily’s loss is not an iso­lated case – it’s been de­press­ing to meet sev­eral other griev­ing par­ents.

“Those cam­paign­ing par­ents went on to win the bat­tle to per­suade the Gov­ern­ment to slash the stakes on the most ad­dic­tive gam­ing ma­chines from £100 to £2. Yet this vic­tory can’t lead to com­pla­cency as we face fur­ther chal­lenges.”

The bishop has pointed out gam­bling is now a big­ger prob­lem for chil­dren in Bri­tain than drink or drugs but does not get the same level of pub­lic­ity. He warned: “Moan­ing about gam­bling isn’t good enough – sub­stan­tial change is needed.”

In an at­tack on the in­dus­try, he wrote: “Un­der-18s are in­un­dated with more than three gam­bling ad­verts a day while 90 per cent of pubs fail to stop chil­dren from gam­bling on the fruit ma­chines found in nearly ev­ery es­tab­lish­ment. Chil­dren are the next tar­get of an in­dus­try mak­ing bil­lions in prof­its which shows lit­tle in­cli­na­tion to take any form of responsibility.”

He added: “The techy bril­liance of chil­dren is won­der­ful if it is part of a safe and en­cour­ag­ing world, but older gen­er­a­tions are fail­ing to pro­vide this.” He pointed out that YouTube videos which en­cour­age gam­bling are avail­able to any­one and high­lighted that gam­bling is pro­moted on so­cial me­dia as well. He said: “Gam­bling com­pa­nies tell us they’re work­ing hard to pro­tect chil­dren but that claim sim­ply doesn’t stack up.” The Re­mote Gam­bling As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents the in­dus­try, re­jected the crit­i­cism ar­gu­ing that there are ef­fec­tive pro­tec­tions on­line.

A spokesman said: “For ob­vi­ous rea­sons due to age ver­i­fi­ca­tion soft­ware and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­van­tages, re­mote gam­bling is in a good po­si­tion when it comes to pro­tect­ing chil­dren from ac­cess to on­line plat­forms. “How­ever, the gam­bling in­dus­try must never be com­pla­cent where chil­dren are con­cerned and we will con­tinue to ad­dress any short­falls which ex­ist.”

WARN­ING: Dr Alan Smith says more must be done to pro­tect chil­dren


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