Several UK Christian groups have collaborated to press for a ban on gambling advertising in sport as part of the government's current review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
The Evangelical Alliance, Share Jesus International, the Church of England and others are behind a campaign called Stopbettingads.com.
The campaign wants the government to address the heavy prevalence of betting companies featuring as shirt sponsors, event partners and a variety of other commercial relationships in sports.
It’s urging Christians to take part in the government's review which closes at the end of March and explain the damage that gambling and gambling-related marketing has on communities across the country.
The campaign points out that nearly one in five people with a gambling problem have considered suicide and problem gamblers are eight times more likely to have attempted to take their own life than the general population.
Andy Frost, one of the founders of the campaign, and director of Share Jesus International said: "Gambling advertising presents betting as a bit of harmless fun and yet lives are being destroyed and futures severed. The impact of this addition is far-reaching and legislation must step in to prevent further lives from being lost."
Gambling advertising was widely deregulated in 2005 when the law was changed to significantly increase the availability of opportunities to gamble. Currently, nearly three quarters of Premier League and Championship football clubs have a betting sponsor or other commercial arrangement with a gambling company.
Martin Bateman, CEO of Ambassadors Football, said: "Technology has made gambling around sport, and football in particular, easier than ever. The effects of problem gambling not only affect the person gambling, but families, friends and their community can suffer long term harm. Now Is a great time to bring about change in this area."
Rt Rev Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, said: "This is an excellent initiative and I'd like to encourage Christians across the country to add their voices to those concerned about the level of gambling advertising In sport. We must all do our part in protecting young people from gambling harms."
The campaign is encouraging responses from across the UK to inform the government as they make decisions about the future of gambling regulation. It’s asking people to respond to the following two questions in the review: “What are the benefits or harms caused by allowing licensed gambling operators to advertise? Is there any additional evidence in this area [gambling advertising] the government should consider including in relation to particularly vulnerable groups?”
Frost told Premier: “I think it's become so prolific in the amount of advertising around sports that if you watch one game of football on a Saturday afternoon, you might see 15 or 16 different gambling adverts. I think it’s overwhelming. It becomes that almost if you're not gambling, you're not having fun, you're not fully involved in the actual sporting activity itself.
“So for me, it's gone too far. In the same way we've limited alcohol, we've limited smoking, advertising, this needs to happen with gambling. And this government review is a great opportunity for the Church to really engage with this issue and to give their point of view.”
Danny Webster, head of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, added: "This review is the first time the laws governing gambling have been looked at in more than fifteen years. It’s a vital opportunity to have our voices heard. We want to see gambling regulated in a way that protects young people and the most vulnerable, and by taking a tough approach to the marketing and advertising practices of gambling companies the government can show they are serious about this.”
The campaign argues that the Church has a role to speak out on moral issues that affect our society and that in order to stop the normalisation of gambling and protect vulnerable people, gambling advertising in sport must be stopped.
Click here to find out more about how to respond to the consultation.