Talking Point

I am concerned for your health, both physical and financial. Every time we watch football, we are bombarded with advertising encouraging us to bet and that includes children.

The betting industry spends £1.4bn of its £14b gambling yield on advertising. In 2009, its gambling yield was £8bn, so there has been a 75% increase in gambling in ten years.

I worked with online gaming for a number of years. If we actually gave a thought to the margins earnt by gambling firms, we may give gambling a miss. Denise Coates of Bet365 paid herself £323 million. It defies my understanding how people can bet on computer generated games and slots, where the companies ,encouraging you to bet, can set the odds. This is not a game of chance. At least, when you play roulette in a casino, it is a true game of chance and with one zero the house edge is 2.7%, but many roulette wheels have two zeros and the house margin increases to 5.26%. The margins earned on slot games must be incredible to finance the huge profits, salaries and advertising.

The ownership of many betting companies is opaque. They are registered abroad in far flung islands such as Gibraltar and Aruba. You have no chance of winning any dispute with them. Often, their final ownership is opaque. Our own Betway is registered in a dilapidated building ( Empire Stadium Street, Gzira, Malta) and it is a mystery who actually owns the company.

Despite this Karen Brady recently described Betway as a ‘respected and responsible sponsor. We look forward to continuing to work with Betway as we embark on the next chapter for our great club, and we will use this partnership as a platform for success.’ These words will ring hollow for West Ham fans. Personally, I’m brushing my teeth as I write this to get rid of the bad taste.

Every day, stories are coming in thick and fast how betting has ruined peoples lives. Peter Shilton detailed how his life was almost ruined and the critical point was the introduction of online betting. A caretaker killed himself at the school where he worked. Players are being lured into gambling.Betting addicts are being encouranged by VIP schemes. Betting encourages criminality.

You may take advantage of the free bets betting companies offer, without realising that you have to gamble many times the free bet to be allowed to take out any winnings. It’s all in the small print. If you are winning, they will often limit the amount you can bet to a pound or so. All incentives to gamble should be banned.

The NHS’s mental health chief has said that the Health Service should not be left to pick up the pieces from gambling firms’ tactics to retain customers with addiction issues. We have all read stories of people who have a gambling habit, who ruin their lives, which often end in suicide.

It is akin to a disease that is enveloping football. It is everywhere, in adverts of the big screens, shirts and signage. Even personalities get involved. Jose Mourinho currently advertising the daily jackpot for Paddy Power.

We need to get serious about this disease. All advertising should be banned if it is likely to be seen by children. That means a ban on all football sponsorship. Football Clubs would take a hit on their income. It would lead to an adjustment in bloated transfer fees and salaries.

A further 20% tax should be levied on online betting companies and they should be obliged to be registered in the UK.

Free bets and other promotions should be banned.

Final ownership needs to be declared.

On line betting companies should be obliged to check people’s identities when they sign up, not when they want to make their first withdrawal.These means they are taking money from people under 18.

Betting is a plague that has to be stopped. It is now encroaching upon FA cup matches agreeing to live stream games to those who place a bet. Even they realise this is a step too far. However, this is an example of how betting companies can become a gateway for viewing live sports’ events.

Online gaming companies add nothing to the economy. They are just a drain, where we bleed away £200 per annum for every man woman and child. At least high street betting shops give employment and have strict rules to prevent underage betting.

And have consideration. Your simple pleasure may be ruining the lives of 50,000 people a year.