Children: Gambling Advertisements - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:21 pm on 14th September 2017.

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Photo of Lord Roberts of Llandudno Lord Roberts of Llandudno Liberal Democrat 12:21 pm, 14th September 2017

My Lords, I too appreciate the work of researchers and others who have given us facts and figures on the present situation with regard to gambling. I could repeat, as others have done, the startling facts with regard to this situation. However, there are different levels of gambling.

May I promote my own town of Llandudno? Noble Lords can visit it at any time. It has at least three or four amusement arcades. They can walk with me to the pier head, where they can roll a penny and try to get two pennies instead of one, or there is a cabinet with a claw coming down and noble Lords might be lucky and get a teddy bear to take home with them. We do other things in Llandudno, I am sure, but that is the simple gambling that we all used to enjoy as kids. When we went on Sunday school trips to Butlin’s, oh boy, we thought that we were going over the top. We did, but it did not affect us very much at all. As I say, there are different levels of gambling.

Advertising has an effect—of course it does—but it is not alone in encouraging gambling. There is also the family influence. As one goes to various parts of the UK, especially those which do not have the healthiest economies, one sees the gambling shop, which represents hope. Once we overcome the period of austerity, we might also develop a better way to tackle gambling.

Like others present, I remember when there was a bookie on the street corner who had the information and took the bets. Then it became more acceptable. Was the introduction of premium bonds an inducement to gambling? Then, of course, we had the National Lottery. Do noble Lords remember that at eight o’clock on a Saturday night there would be great silence throughout the nation as people listened to the numbers being read out, whether they were two, five, seven or whatever? Gambling had taken a hold and become acceptable. It was not just a little flutter on the Grand National enjoyed by many families. Have the Government sponsored the introduction of another form of gambling, and has that had an undesirable effect?

Gambling is reasonable and acceptable: Dad and Mam do it and Uncle Jack once won something on a premium bond, but is it acceptable? Are we not ourselves responsible for influencing children to gamble? We have to move on and see whether it is possible to exert a different influence in the home. That is why I so appreciate the suggestion that education about gambling should be on the curriculum in schools, as well as teaching about alcohol and tobacco and so on. We must take this issue very seriously, as many lives are ruined because of it.

I once paid a visit to Las Vegas. Methodist ministers should not go there, but an American airline had said, “For an extra pound, you can go from Seattle to Las Vegas”, and I went and I saw the magnificent buildings there. One evening, outside the one that I was staying at was a guy who looked very respectable. He wanted to sell me his Canon camera because he knew that, if he had that extra money, he might be able to win back all the money that he had lost. Gambling gives people hope and it becomes an addiction. A moment ago it was mentioned that the younger a child is when he begins to gamble, the more likely it is that he will settle into the routine of gambling.

Perhaps I may turn to some facts and figures. Children and young people are vulnerable to advertising—of course they are, and that is why there is so much gambling. We have been told that £312 million a year is now spent on advertising by the gambling industry.

There has also been a change in the bookmakers. I see bookmakers in very unattractive locations—some railways stations now have a bookie’s office, including the one at Chester, which I go via when I go home to north Wales. It is very easy for people to begin gambling, but the problem is that children are also influenced to do so. It is supposed to be easy money.

There has also been a change from the old style of gambling through a bookmaker to online gambling, which has been mentioned several times this morning. Many children now have mobile phones and apps. How do you regulate gambling on a mobile phone? That is something that we have not yet come to terms with. Ofcom says that 24% of eight to 11 year-olds and 69% of 12 to 15 year-olds now own a smartphone, usage of which may be difficult to monitor. It also says that 16% of the children surveyed had spent their own money on gambling the week before the survey took place.

Existing legislation does not adequately address these challenges. Moreover, research examining the relationship between social media and gambling speaks of changes to the “gambling ecosystem”. There has been a big change since the Gambling Act 2005, and the current legislation does not tackle it.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in this debate. I am not suggesting that we dictate to children how they should spend their pocket money, saying, “Don’t spend it in that way”, but the ball is in the Government’s court and they have a responsibility, because the consequences of addiction to gambling are horrendous.