My Lords, I am deeply grateful for the consent I have been given to speak briefly in the gap here. I should declare interests in that I have twice earned my living from gambling: once as the chairman, executive chairman and chief executive of a chain of casinos and the other time as the chairman of the Jockey Club’s 14 principal racecourses, the latter of which gave me all the evidence that horses are very sensible creatures, because they never bet on people. I wholly support this debate and had a very sleepless night last night, asking myself why I had not put my name down to speak.
I was infuriated 12 or so days ago, just before we came back for this September session, watching the last day of the England v West Indies test which England lost. There were two amazing innovations that afternoon which I had never seen before. First, the Sky television channel—which of course can have no possible financial interest in this matter—had started to introduce the bookmakers’ odds on the changing position of the teams to win the match, given in conjunction with the support of their expert commentators and their thoughts on whether England could still win or not. The odds on the screen that afternoon were still quoting England at 8:1 to win at 3 pm, when we were clearly dead in the water already, so any money was a gift to a bookmaker in those terms. What right does a major television channel with a national event like a test match have to be encouraging betting and putting out odds which it is manipulating on screen? This is simply dreadful.
What was also terrible that afternoon was that it all moved so slowly that there were a whole range of new advertising slots. One ad came up seven times in two hours, including on two occasions twice in the same three-minute spell. I have to admit this ad was hilariously funny: a footballer trying to take the last, definitive spot kick to win a major championship—probably the European Cup or the World Cup. His shot hits the crossbar and shoots up in the air, whereupon the goalkeeper turns and rises to celebrate with his colleagues the triumph of winning the cup. As his back is turned, the ball comes back down to earth, does a leg-break which Shane Warne would be jealous of and goes into the net—the winners and losers have reversed their positions. It is a hilariously funny ad and I have watched it many times, but it has a very dangerous subliminal message. It is effectively saying, if you a gambler you can rely on the Archangel Gabriel sitting on a cloud up there to look after you: he will catch the ball and turn your defeat into a victory, so gambling is safe because miracles happen to protect you. That is what a child is going to think if he sees that ad as many times as I did; seven times in an afternoon.
We have a very serious problem here, much more than this brief debate can possibly address, and we have to stop this nonsense. It is awful; it is undermining of a mentality and attitude of responsibility. How can you influence children when they are seeing this stuff? I can watch that ad many times, because it is hilarious, and so will they, but the message is the same, all the time: trust in a miracle and you will be a successful gambler.