Betting bribes and mental health

Gabrielle Humphreys is a PhD student in the University’s Institute of Life and Human Sciences. The focus of her PhD is the development of eHealth interventions. Gabrielle aims to identify effective behaviour change techniques in alcohol, gambling and emotional eating online interventions to inform the development of trans diagnostic programmes.

A ‘betting bribe’ refers to persuasive tactics used by betting firms to encourage gambling. In December, football matches from the third round of the FA cup tournament were exclusively streamed on the UK’s seven largest gambling websites. To gain access to these matches, the sites required users to place a bet or deposit money into their account 24 hours prior to the match – causing outrage in both football supporters and gambling experts. Additionally, many gambling websites now advertise ‘Bet £5 Get £20 In Free Bets’ and hold competitions for users to win ‘money-can’t-buy prizes’ if they place a bet.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s current Mental Health Director, recently shamed gambling firms and demanded an end to the use of these ‘predatory’ tactics. Murdoch urged companies to immediately ban betting on credit cards, rather than waiting for April when these regulations become enforced. Similarly, she asked for companies to no longer market ‘VIP experience’ packages and stream live sports.

Murdoch’s statement that there is a ‘clear’ link between gambling and mental illness is supported by recent literature. Typically, gambling also negatively impacts one’s substance use, financial and social stability.

Gambling is commonly centred around sporting events. Although changes have been seen in recent years, hypermasculinity very much remains in sports. Research shows that males are more likely to suffer in silence; only seeking psychological treatment when in desperate need, therefore requiring more extensive help. Gambling firms profit of the exploitation of their users, especially those who are most vulnerable to addictive behaviours, which Murdoch questions the morality of.

The NHS is currently under huge stress; with the detrimental consequences from gambling only adding to this. In her statement, Murdoch stated that the NHS is simply no longer able to ‘pick up the pieces’ that these betting firms are causing, asking them to take responsibility for their actions. With new gambling regulations being introduced in April, we hope that Murdoch’s action will prompt further changes in betting to reduce the severity of gambling addiction, as well as the pressure within the NHS.