Michael Meadowcroft says British governments have played their part in the rise of gambling and are now hooked on the revenues it generates
Your editorial rightly highlights the need to act on the excesses of the gambling industry (Problem gambling has reached crisis point. Time to regulate, 1 September), but there is one glaring omission: the hypocrisy of successive governments in inaugurating more and more gambling opportunities. From premium bonds in 1956 – called “a squalid raffle” at the time by Harold Wilson – to the national lottery in 1994 with its increasingly diffuse formats, governments have encouraged almost half the population to start on the path that can lead to obsession for those vulnerable to the lure of gambling. The national lottery clothes itself in the veneer of benevolence by the virtual “nationalisation” of charitable grant-giving, which no one really believes motivates any gambler. I doubt whether any government will now be brave enough to curtail gambling given that the financial rewards it reaps are so huge, but it needs to take note of the increasing evidence of the damage it causes. Perhaps the BBC might set an example by ending its own curious addiction to giving out horseracing tips on Radio 4’s Today programme every morning.
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