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Gov gambling reforms fall short say Christian activists

by Sophie Drew

The government has announced new plans to overhaul current gambling legislation in order to alleviate addiction, but some Christian activists say the proposals fall short.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer's revealed a long-awaited set of plans covering six areas for reforms - including affordability checks and a new tax on betting companies, with the money going to fund treatment for addicts.

Affordability checks are designed to prevent people from spending beyond their means. 

However, Tim Cairns, a senior policy officer at Christian organisation CARE, says Frazer's plans need to go farther.

He told Premier Christian News: "I have a bit of a problem with what she's just announced. 

"It's the companies who are going to do those affordability checks. 

"Gambling companies already have to look at affordability on a much less regulated way."

He continued: "The problem was the gambling companies weren't implementing these controls. 

"What the minister seems do announce is more stringent controls, but they're just going to have the gambling companies enforce them as well. 

"So that, to me, seems like something that experience tells us might not be the best way to go."

Frazer has also announced a consultation on the stakes permitted – another decision Cairns is critical of.

"Gambling harms," he said. "We all know that." 

"We don't need consultation. Let's cut the consultation. Let's get the legislation."

Justyn Larcombe, CEO of The Recovery Course and author of "Tails, I lose" has been open about his past difficulties with gambling, which saw him lose £750,000.

Although he has reservations about some aspects of the proposals, he welcomes the reforms.

He said: "The biggest one is that it's a response to the fact that gambling has changed. No longer do people mostly go into a high street bookie and place a bet with one of those little stub pencils. 

"It's all on the phone. 

"So you've got the casino in your pocket, if you like. It's just so easy.

The affordability checks on you, that's great. So if someone loses a lot of money, in a day, that will flag and they will be contacted; action will be taken. 

"So for me, for example, the worst I ever placed was £16,000 in one day, and I lost. I wasn't contacted by anyone at all. Nothing happened. 

"It was completely my own fault, but I'm glad to say that now that will change with the affordability checks."

However, he believes the government must go further to protect people from gambling harm. 

He continued: "They have stopped short on a couple of things that I'm a little disappointed with. 

"For example, there is going to be no limit on current advertising, and they aren't making it compulsory for, for example, football clubs, not to be able to advertise. 

"Young people are watching their heroes running around with betting companies on their shirts."

Whilst many may not see the harm in dabbling with betting, Larcombe says the consequences of addiction can be grave and is calling for the government not to delay any further. 

"If you have a gambling problem, you are 25 per cent more likely to take your own life. Ten per cent of every suicide in the United Kingdom is gambling related. 

"Those figures come from the Royal Society for Public Health, and it's tragic. 

"So in the three years that the white paper has been delayed, there are 1000 people who've taken their own lives."

If you struggle with gambling and need someone to talk to, contact The Recovery Centre here

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