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the Friend INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS VOL 169 NO 8 3 Rise in problem gambling 4 Egyptian debt 5 Boycott, divestment & sanctions:
supporting both sides 6 Doing business with Quakers Kevin Redpath 7 Striking a balance: training and pay Martina Weitsch 8-9 Letters 10-11 Egypt: a quiet revolution Julian Stargardt 12-13 Work for life Elaine Pryce 14 ACTS of worship Elizabeth Brown 16 Q-eye 17 Friends & Meetings
Cover image: Willow buds. Photo: Thako the Jaguar/flickr CC.
Images on this page: Top: Vaughan Bell and his Colombian girlfriend, Yamile. Photo courtesy Elaine Pryce. See pages 12-13. Bottom: Lynn Morris as Elizabeth Hooton. Photo: John Lampen. See page 16.
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PROBLEM GAMBLING IN THE UK has risen sharply since gambling regulations were relaxed just over three years ago. The latest Gambling Prevalence Study suggests that the number of problem gamblers has risen from around 260,000 to 400,000 since 2007.
The study is the first since a number of restrictions on gambling were removed in 2007. One of the most significant of these was the decision to allow gambling to be advertised on television. The study has been carried out by the Gambling Commission.
The government at the time promised to reconsider the changes if problem gambling was found to rise. Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs (QAAD) have urged the current government to act on this principle and bring in stricter advertising regulations.
However, the government is currently planning to deregulate gambling further. Their plans include an increase in the maximum stake in gaming machines.
The survey found an increase of ten per cent in the proportion of British adults who have gambled in the last year. It now stands at nearly three-quarters (seventy-three percent). Seventeen percent have bet only on the National Lottery. The largest increases are in the use of scratchcards, lotteries other than the National Lottery and betting on events through bookmakers.
‘High-spend’ gamblers are to be found across all social classes, while ‘high-time’ gamblers are more prevalent amongst the poorest parts of the population.
QAAD insist that ‘a rise of this scale in a mere three to four years is extremely worrying, given that a seven to eight year gap between previous studies showed little change’.
The Gambling Commission said that it is not possible to tell whether the increase in problem gambling is ‘an upward trend or a temporary fluctuation’. In response, QAAD’s Helena Chambers told the Friend that ‘a statistical blip is the least likely explanation’ and pointed instead to the reduction in legal restrictions on gambling.
QAAD urged the government to regulate gambling advertising more strictly, rule out further deregulatory measures and give local authorities the power to refuse gaming licences if they consider there are too many premises in their area. They also want gambling among people under eighteen to be surveyed ‘in a statistically robust manner’.
Dominic Harrison, chief executive of Business in Sport and Leisure (BISL), said: ‘The survey shows that gambling remains a fun activity for the vast majority of adults in the UK’. He admitted that ‘any level of problem gambling is a challenge which needs to be tackled’, but said BISL would work alongside the government without greater regulation being necessary. Businesses involved in gambling have put funds into the Great Foundation, which supports people who have gambling problems.
In response, Helena Chambers insisted: ‘More money for mopping up the damage is much less helpful than measures that could prevent more people from suffering in the first place. Industry expansion and profit has often been put before public health and well-being, and this needs to stop.’
Other faith groups have also expressed concern. Gareth Wallace, assistant public affairs officer at the Salvation Army, warned of cultural change, suggesting that British society could become ‘gradually de-sensitised to the problems that gambling can bring’.
Symon Hill the Friend, 25 February 2011