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UK campaigners call for ban on gambling ads in football

Newcastle United football betting news

Recovering gambling addicts and their families went on a march on Friday across the North East of England in a bid to coerce the UK government to stop gambling advertising in football.

The march started outside Newcastle’s St James’ Park, spread out to the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, and concluded at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium. The walk from Tyneside to Teesside is around 40 miles (65km).

The march involved Middlesbrough, Newcastle, and Sunderland – the three most prominent football clubs in the area. While they all have gambling firms as their sponsors, gaming regulators stated that the clubs adhere to the nation’s strict sports betting regulations.

The Betting and Gaming Council stated that the operators were already required to comply with inflexible rules in terms of advertisements and sponsorships. The UK Gambling Commission also pointed out that it made certain such promotions were carried out in a socially responsible way.

The campaign group behind the march, The Big Step, was founded by James Grimes, who previously suffered from gambling addiction. Regarding the march, Grimes revealed that previous attempts to reduce gambling ads in football had been ignored.

“All of us [on the march] have experience of gambling-related harm. We’re doing it to try to convince the government to put an end to these harmful deals,” Grimes.

“The reality is football isn’t listening. We’ve tried to engage with clubs time and time again, but we just get a closed door.”

READ: UK Gambling Commission lacks resources to inspect betting crimes

Former gambling addict Joe Clarkson was part of the campaign against gambling ads and claimed he spent more than five times his annual salary on betting. Most of the funds were acquired through overdrafts and payday loans, and around £750,000 was stolen, leading to Clarkson’s incarceration for two and a half years.

“It was my life from being 14 or 15. I believed I could make money through my knowledge of football. That was the stupidity of it,” Clarkson said.

“I very quickly realised I couldn’t, but by then I was in debt – skint – pinching from my family until the lies became incredible. I don’t recognise the person I used to be.”

According to Public Health England, around 400 suicides each year are related to gambling. With the government’s long-awaited review of the Gambling Act nearing a release date, campaigners can only hope that some checks will be included to limit gambling advertising, introduce limits for casino games and online slots, and implement affordability checks.

The Gambling Act was first published in 2005 and permits gambling operators to promote poker, sports betting, and online casinos on television and radio. The UK government called for a review of the Act in 2019 to ensure that it remained effective in the digital age.

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