Greenock Telegraph 12th February 2021

We are all aware of the effects of Covid and the devastation it has had within our communities. It has led to poor health, both physical and mental, loss of jobs and financial hardship. The good news is that the vaccine rollout continues at pace and those that were considered the highest priority have almost entirely received their jag. But there are illnesses and conditions that also ruin health, wealth, and happiness. Conditions that can lead to loss of life, that we can’t produce a vaccine for. Within our society we have a hidden killer that goes unnoticed. Addiction to alcohol or drugs tends to be noticed, there is a change in behaviour and increasingly the medical profession, who not so long ago were dismissive of alcoholics and drug addicts, are intervening. And the earlier the intervention the better.

However, gambling addiction is the poor relative. Gambling addiction leads to all the heartaches I mentioned earlier but it can go almost unnoticed until it is too late. We need to start talking about it. We need to bring it out into the open and expose the ruthless predatory behaviour of the gambling industry. Gone are the days of punters in the bookies studying form and picking a few horses to back. Now we have online casinos operating twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Punters are emailed and messaged constantly to encourage them to bet more. Free bets and inducements are used to pile on the pressure. People at their wits end are driven to suicide and all the while we are faced with celebrity endorsements and blanket advertising at sporting events. We can’t grow a vaccine but we can and we must have a ban on advertising, reduction in stakes, end VIP rooms and provide help and support and education for those that have been affected and those whom the industry is so willing to groom to be the next generation of addicted gamblers.