World Cup betting surges in UK

The World Cup betting is sending Britain into an unprecedented betting frenzy as England’s winning start and a surge of gambling adverts on TV encourage viewers to bet record amounts.

Industry figures seen by The Times suggest that up to £2.5 billion will be wagered on the tournament, an increase of almost 50 per cent on the last World Cup, with a huge rise in the number of female gamblers. Almost £500 million has been bet in the past week with four out of five bets made during matches.

Last week, the Gambling Commission fined 32Red £2m after it missed more than 20 incidents indicating one customer was a problem gambler. These included an occasion when the punter immediately restaked his seven-figure winnings. The sums involved suggest that this was either a money-laundering operation or a high-roller addict. There was nothing to suggest that further down the financial scale this occurs much more often but escapes scrutiny because of the smaller sums.

The football authorities that reach out to these firms for sponsorship and the clubs who allow them to desecrate the club colours with their garish logos are just as culpable in spreading this disease as the gambling conglomerates. They should be ashamed. They are knowingly giving licence to these companies to continue the process of destroying the lives of generations of their most loyal supporters. Adverts for alcohol and cigarettes have long been banned in sport but gambling is allowed to thrive despite being just as toxic as the other two.

A little progress was made in the fight against the exploitative practices of the gambling industry when Westminster announced a cap on the maximum stake in fixed odds betting terminals of £2. The Scottish government, while backing the measure, has not yet used its devolved powers to control the number of machines in new betting shops. Holyrood last year moved to curb the number of new betting shops opening in empty shop spaces in the middle of disadvantaged town centres.

The gambling industry always finds a way, though, usually with the connivance of football clubs that pretend to be socially concerned: Glasgow, the city most affected by the evil of fixed odds betting terminals, is also home to Scotland’s two biggest football clubs. Celtic and Rangers are both sponsored by major betting firms.