Sunday, 27 June 2010

Having a punt

Last year a colleague of mine cancelled his Sky Sports subscription. This was no easy move for a committed football supporter and it didn’t go down well with his football loving son. He took the decision because he was fed up with the constant stream of betting adverts shown by Sky at every possible opportunity and this was his way of registering a protest.

Unfortunately the curse of the betting adverts has now spread to ITV and no World Cup match is complete without adverts for William Hill, Ladbrokes and the other gambling companies. winstone During the breaks we are invited to take a bet on the next scorer, the number of corners and just about every other statistic from the game being screened. To entice us we have top diamond geezer Ray Winstone intoning the odds with his exaggerated cockney blather; like he really needs the money.

So when did this start? I can’t remember seeing so many betting adverts before. Have the advertising regulations changed or has ITV changed its policy? Has some conscious decision been taken to target the World Cup as a way of launching this change?

I’m not against a person having the occasional punt on the Grand National for a bit of fun; I’ve done it myself, but this sustained exposure to gambling adverts on a major broadcasting channel is quite insidious. I really don’t want my children confronted with these adverts in the middle of the afternoon while watching a football match.

lottery And then I remember that gambling has been institutionalised in our society and this is just the logical next step. The National Lottery is treated as a revered institution, with a prime time BBC programme watched by millions who have been told ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it.’ The funds from the Lottery are used to finance the upkeep of our heritage, arts and to underwrite a large chunk of our sport. The staging of the London Olympics will be in significant measure funded by the Lottery. The church is not exempt as it is dependant on English Heritage grants to help maintain historic church buildings via the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Where’s the harm? One of my most depressing repeated experiences as a parish priest in Dagenham was to visit the local post office and watch young single mums drawing their benefits and child allowance and then immediately spending a significant proportion on the scratch cards and lottery tickets. In one sense I couldn’t blame them; what other way were they offered a chance to escape from a life time on benefit? How else were they going to realise the dream of the sort of life style idealised by OK and Hello magazine? Why shouldn’t they believe the siren voices saying ‘It could be you’.

So gambling has become a cornerstone of public policy, an easy source of revenue for the government, a respected and desirable leisure time activity, an escape route for those feeling trapped and the panacea for all our problems. Gambling has been made so accessible that anyone can participate; on the high street, in the news agents, in the privacy of one’s home either on line or on the telephone.

What makes me most uncomfortable about our society’s increasing obsession with gambling is that it encourages us, and particularly the most vulnerable amongst us, to place our hope in chance and the promise of unearned riches to meet our needs and desires. The challenge to the church is how we share with people in a tangible way a different hope, in which life is not a gamble but a promise secured in the love and purposes of God for each one of us.


@revpafc said...

Amen brother.

Though cancelling it because of the irreparable damage Sky have done to our national game would have been even more laudatory. Get your mate to buy a season-ticket for a local side - for him and his son - instead. Get the lad into proper football, instead of the mind-numbingly tedious irrelevance that is SkyPrem.

You know it makes sense ;)

Philip Ritchie said...

Just to clarify @revpafc, my mate is also a life long Ipswich fan and former season ticket holder, though he gave up the ticket because he wasn't able to get to enough home matches.

Lesley said...

Well said. Every time I go to visit one of my parishioners who is close to 100 years old she tells me what she will do if she wins the lottery. I am not convinced it does anyone any good - living in the fantasy future rather than the here and now.

Anonymous said...

My son in law was a secret gambler-on slot machines. He got through thousands of pounds .When he finally admitted this (about 10yrs ago) he went to Gamblers Anonymous.He was really helped by them, and has since helped others himself. In our church now my husband and I no longer buy lottery tickets of the most benign sort at Parish Bazaars and Quizzes. As your post says about TV during the football, so I have just walked past the betting shop here where you may bet on whether or not Garrard scores the first goal this afternoon. I take notice of this now because of what happened in our own family. There is help but the best thing is making people aware with the true story of someone they might know. Well done for highlighting this .

UKViewer said...

I think that like any addiction, Gambling once caught is hard to deal with.

I note that the Government have banned Cigarette advertising and are working hard to cut it down. They also advertise and promote the dangers of excessive drinking and of course there are huge anti-drugs campaigns.

I question why Gambling is allowed to advertise? But of course the taxman takes a large slice of the income. The government itself is guilty of running gambling owning the Tote and now selling it off to private enterprise.

I must admit I have done the Pools when they were the 'in thing' and have also done the lottery. In the past I have even bet on horse races and played gaming slot machines. But I always did it in moderation and have never felt the excitement or inclination to gamble in the way that those who become addicted do.

Perhaps I have been fortunate, but I do not see the lure of gambling, but perhaps, since I am not in a position of deprivation, I am not certainly not in a position to condemn those who use it as an escape mechanism from their situation.

James said...

Well, either I'm one of the weaker brethren or I've got one of the hardest, most stubborn streaks known to man. I have never played the National Lottery, and really don't feel I've missed out.

But then I'm also one of the freaks who has no TV...

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Revsimmy said...

A colleague in a former job described the National Lottery as "a tax on stupidity" - and he bought tickets every week!

muddleglum said...

Thank you. You have given me an idea for a future blog post, "Communications, I betcha"