I’m proud to work for the Guardian, a newspaper that doesn’t take betting ads

I’m proud to work for the Guardian, a newspaper that doesn’t take betting ads

When I began reporting on the gambling sector in 2015, I didn’t have any preconceptions about the industry. After all, it rarely seemed to make front-page news.

One reason for this, I would later learn, is that problem gambling and addiction often fly under the radar, not just at a societal level but even within close-knit families.

An addict can plunge their whole family into punishing debt with a few taps of their mobile phone, while their partner sits beside them on the sofa, blissfully unaware.

Friday saw the start of Euro 2024, a huge moment for the industry to try to attract new customers through adverts. However, you won’t see any in the Guardian. One year ago today, we announced a global ban on gambling advertising. We could only do this because our journalism is powered by the financial support of our readers.

Gambling adverts aren’t just a concern for people who already have a gambling problem. We live in a world shaped by the 2005 Gambling Act, which unleashed a tidal wave of betting ads, first through TV and radio but later through social media and online. Nearly 20 years later, little is known about the effect that such exposure is having on young people who have grown up surrounded by these ads.

As I began to dig into the gambling sector and learn more about it, stories of exploitation and misery came bubbling up at such a rate that, having at first been jaw-dropping, they became almost routine. I would see the same patterns: happy, carefree people driven to despair, crime and even suicide, while powerful corporations lined their pockets, rarely questioning where the money was coming from.

Nobody seemed to be doing anything to curb the worst excesses of the industry, least of all politicians. Indeed, many lawmakers seemed to walk arm in arm with the gambling companies, even taking lucrative second jobs with online bookmakers and casinos.

Over the years, the Guardian has sought to shine a light on the dark side of this industry, providing a counterbalance to the hundreds of millions spent every year on adverts that give the impression that it’s all just a bit of fun.

We dug deep into the dangers associated with fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which were eventually curbed in 2019, their stakes cut from £100 a spin to £2. Targeted use of freedom of information legislation allowed us to uncover the extent to which gambling companies relied on controversial VIP schemes, which reward the biggest gambling losers with freebies.

We revealed details of the MPs who received hospitality or even salaries from gambling companies, while in a position to influence policy. The entanglement between football and betting is a subject we’ve returned to time and again, including our revelation that English football clubs were taking a cut of their fans’ losses.

From high street slot machine farms exploiting vulnerable people to video game loot boxes that teach children the mechanics of gambling, from the Russian business links of the national lottery’s owner to the addictive side of crypto trading, every aspect of gambling regulation in the UK has featured on our pages at some stage.

These stories can be difficult – practically, emotionally and legally – to tell. In-depth reporting takes time and money, as does the endless task of fending off pushback from the subjects of that reporting. Often, we meet with resistance from highly paid public relations consultants or law firms who want to manipulate what we write, or prevent it from being written at all.

Thankfully, the Guardian’s reader-funded model means that rather than focus on cheap clicks, we can devote time and resources to independent journalism, knowing that we have the full force of the Guardian and its readership behind us. If you’re able to, we’d greatly appreciate it if you could join us in our mission today. You can support all the work we do from just £4 a month, or even with a one-off payment.

Support from readers allowed the Guardian to take that landmark decision last year to stop accepting gambling advertising, a choice I was happy to be consulted on and which should give readers further comfort that we’ll never pull our punches when it comes to holding the industry to account.

We couldn’t have taken that decision, and we couldn’t do the kind of journalism we do, without the continued support of our readers. That’s why we serve them above anyone else, reporting without fear or favour, often against the odds.

Thank you.

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