Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s mental health director, has urged betting firms to avoid ‘aggressive advertising campaigns’ after the football season returns.
Murdoch suggested that the problem gambling centres of the NHS will struggle to cope with ‘avoidable harm’ due to excessive gambling advertising, stressing that the industry should not ‘open the floodgates of addiction.’
Murdoch continued: “The return of football will be a moment of excitement for millions but it must not be an excuse for gambling firms to open the floodgates of addiction.
“Plenty of people safely enjoy a flutter, but in the NHS we’re increasingly seeing people in need of specialist help after they fall victim to excessive and aggressive marketing by betting companies.
“The NHS is stepping up to the plate to offer specialist treatment, but with my colleagues having spent this year focused on protecting people from a once-in-a-generation global pandemic, the last thing NHS staff and patients need is for avoidable harm to be caused by reckless advertising and behaviour from the gambling industry as normal life begins to resume.
“What we don’t want to see over the next 48 hours is firms kicking off more aggressive advertising campaigns to make up for lost time.”
In response to Murdoch’s statement, Chief Executive Michael Dugher of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) pointed out that the gambling industry reinforced its commitment to safer gambling during the lockdown – with BGC members dedicating 20 percent of advertising to responsible gambling campaigns.
Dugher said: “Rather than trying to once again grab alarmist headlines with her deliberately incendiary media interventions, Claire should take up our offer, made to her back in January, to speak with the industry about her concerns.
“Murdoch is concerned that the whistle-to-whistle ban is not matched by a ban on online marketing, particularly on mobile phone apps, used by many people with accounts, who can bet rapidly on outcomes during matches.
“In January she wrote directly to major gambling companies Bet365, Betfred, GVC Holdings, Flutter Entertainment and William Hill, castigating some of their practices and saying there were “increasingly clear and worrying links between gambling and mental ill health.”