Thursday January 2,2014 :  SCOTS RELIGIOUS LEADER WARNS ON GAMBLING
 
Perceptions that gambling is "cool and normalised" a danger, says Moderator
 
The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Lorna Hood, has used her New Year message to sound a note of caution on the proliferation of gambling, warning that the perception of gambling as a cool and normal activity has grown and is dangerous, diluting appreciation of the pastime's potential hazards such as problem gambling and debt.
 
The traditional stigma attached to gambling has largely gone, but along with pay-day loans, betting is making a significant contribution to the debt crisis faced by thousands of Scottish families, she said.
 
The Right Reverend Hood is particularly concerned at the spread of internet and mobile gambling, saying:
 
“Adverts during sports and other TV programmes encourage us to place bets using tablets and smartphones [that are] within arm’s reach. Gambling has a long history, but we are now in an era where it is more accessible because of new technology and promoted more through mass advertising.
 
“The ads seek to present regular gambling as a cool, normalised part of our culture. Companies may become richer through this commerce.
 
“The danger is that individuals and their families simply become debt-ridden, with all the misery that entails.”
 
The Moderator is also worried about the public's penchant to take out payday loans at "eye-watering" interest rates to fulfil their wish for immediate gratification when they see something they like and decide to buy…and the consequences this can have in terms of disposable income.
 
The Herald Scotland newspaper waded in on the gambling issue too, commenting in an op-ed piece that agreed that gambling has become part of the fabric of everyday life…but that problem gambling remains a serious threat.
 
The article references a Scottish Health Survey published in 2013 which found that 70 percent of Scots have gambled in the past year – some three million people. It also quotes a UK Gambling Commission estimate that 31,000 of these Scottish punters are at risk as problem gamblers.
 
Criticising the UK's deregulation of gambling in 2005 and the subsequent rise of online gambling, the newspaper highlights the increased advertising and marketing in Britain by online gambling companies in an industry that is now worth almost GBP 2 billion a year in the UK – a sizeable proportion of the GBP 6.3 billion the gambling industry as a whole was worth last year in Britain, when the market's overall value rose 7 percent.
 
The Herald Scotland piece reserves most of its criticism for the much maligned Fixed Odds Betting Terminals found in retail betting shops on the High Street, however, picking up on the now oft-used factoid that it is possible for a punter to bet up to GBP 100 every 20 seconds, enabling bookies last year to generate FOBT annual profits in excess of GBP 122 million.
 
The article supports calls by politicians, problem gambling agencies and charities that stakes should be limited by law to GBP 2 in these machines, and calls upon the Scottish government to lobby Westminster on curtailing the growth of "predatory" gambling.
 
"At the very least it should continue to lobby the UK government to stem the growth of fixed odds betting – a sure sign of a gambling industry that is out of control," it concludes.