Gambling - a system ripe for exploitation

Pharaons Tomb

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Without proper regulation, the industry helps the rich launder their money and get richer while those who can least afford to lose lose more

Gambling-as-Slavery-Color.jpg

he fine of £6.2m levied on the bookmakers William Hill today by the Gambling Commission represents a small victory in the constant struggle against the abuses of a system that lends itself to exploitation. In this case, the firm was found to have been astonishingly trusting about where some problem gamblers got their money: although there is meant to be a system to identify and warn off players who cannot control themselves, in one case a player managed to bet more than £147,000 over a period of 18 months, and lost more than two-thirds.

William Hill’s response was to send two “automated social responsibility emails”. In a similar case the bookmaker simply asked a man who had staked more than £100,000 whether he was comfortable with it. When he replied that he was, the company decided that it, too, was comfortable with taking his money.

In the days before drink-driving became socially unacceptable, as well as illegal, drunks used to be asked whether they felt all right to drive. The social damage done by problem gambling is comparable to that done by drink-driving. The scandal of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), digital slot machines with which it is possible to bet £100 in 20 seconds, and which are carefully programmed to keep the players in thrall for as long as possible, is under consideration by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The minister is expected to announce a drastically lowered limit on the stakes, to bring them in line with the mechanical fruit machines they superseded. At the same time we’re seeing a concerning growth of gambling inside video games aimed at children, whose play money must be purchased with real currency.


So much for gambling as a means of exploiting the weak. The fine on William Hill also illuminates the ways in which gambling can be used by the strong to avoid the attentions of the law. Several of the cases for which they were fined involved the use of stolen money. Beyond that, there is the widespread use of gambling as a form of money laundering.

The use of FOBTs as money-laundering machines has been popular for at least five years with retail drug dealers: even if some of the cash they stake is lost, the rest of their drug earnings now appear as perfectly legitimate gambling winnings which may be invested legally. On a global scale, the use of casinos for tax evasion is widespread for obvious reasons.

Even when the money has been acquired by legal means, the house share is likely to be less than a taxman would take, and there is always the chance of winning something as well. Perhaps the ultimate development of this tendency is the small Chinese casino on Saipan, a remote Pacific atoll owned by the US, run by a former associate of Donald Trump, and apparently funded by a Hong Kong dynasty which is deeply involved in the casinos of Macau. Eyebrows have been raised at the fact that VIP guests bet more than $5m at each table every day last year. The DCMS is fortunate that it only has to regulate British gambling.
 

Trigger Finger

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#2
That would be very odd. Perhaps Coates has a quality that undoes the fact she's running one of those socially destructive companies.

Does she give money to Oxfam?
 

Absolutelly Energy

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Whilst concerns about the people on the extremes are valid more should be being done to stop the constant account restrictions being placed on ordinary punters. The whole business has become a front where sports betting is used to lure peole into gambling on virtual software.
 

Alex Budkiss

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Whilst concerns about the people on the extremes are valid more should be being done to stop the constant account restrictions being placed on ordinary punters. The whole business has become a front where sports betting is used to lure peole into gambling on virtual software.
Indeed, people regularly winning being banned is an absurdity. One of my friends has been banned from 4 different sites.
 

Online Casino Dealer

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I won around 2k a month ago and had the funds frozen. I had to send complete bank records showing the transactions and fill out a questionnaire before they would release the money
 

Trigger Finger

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Has anyone ever studied how much gambling firms profits make from "problem gamblers" and how much from those who stick a few quid on an accumulator at the weekend? Might be interesting.

I like gambling. Generally I'll bet if I'm home on a Saturday night and there's a boxing match I don't particularly care about and want to spice up, or if I think I've got a little insight that most seem to have missed. But I regard my gambling as spending on entertainment. Anything I get back is a bonus.

The more of these articles I read, the more I wonder if something I regard as a fun occasional pastime should actually be banned.
 

Absolutelly Energy

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You are lucky to have the self-discipline to see your gambling as entertainment and to have full control over it - good on you, though I fear you might be in a minority.
I was astonished and disturbed when the UK government decided to make gambling legal and open to all. Too many people get addicted to it (probably a somewhat larger proportion than those addicted to hard drugs) and literally throw their money away. I'm not a killjoy, far from that, but I honestly thought this was a huge mistake, as we can see today with even very young people being targeted by unscrupulous companies.
I only wish I was wrong.
 

Red Green Blue

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I’m not a moral crusader, but I’m wary that so little is done to prevent problem gambling when it can ruins someone’s life far more than smoking.
A little flutter is hardly noteworthy, but fixed odd terminals and slot machines are stretching the definition of fairness and honesty
 

Alex Budkiss

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#9
FOBETs are the definition of fairness and honesty. They are totally open about their payout percentages and systems, they are required to declare these on the machine in a way that is easily visible to the player, they are fair in that they pay out exactly what they say they will.
The problem comes in that people, but especially problem gamblers tend to overestimate their luck, they often think they can beat the odds, even fix odds, they think that they "deserve" the win and so will get one, the machines play in a way to get people on tilt, they exploit certain people's psychology against them.
Are these machines (or more realistically the programmers and operators) manipulative? Absolutely. The absolute honesty and fairness is why they have been allowed to become so prevalent, the bookies can always just point to the fact that the amount they pay out is printed on the front of the machine. If someone plays the machine and doesn't understand what their chances of winning are then that's their own fault because the information is right there, on the front, for all to see.
 

Pharaons Tomb

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Well, if the above report is anything like accurate I'm utterly shocked that William Hill was so lax in its procedures. I'm a branch manager with 30+years experience at of one of its rivals; twice now, in my branch, high staking customers that I have known for some time, in one case twenty years, were asked to provide documentary evidence that their stake money was from legitimate sources. One owns a local chain of high end pubs and boutique hotels, the other a high level building contractor with directorships going back thirty years, all checkable online with Companies House. I knew they were legitimate and above board, but the company won't take my word for it. When they demurred from sharing their bank records - frankly, would you ?? - they were barred from betting with the company....that's how stringent OUR company is, and I suspect the rest of the High Street is as well; so please Mr Guardian Opinion, don't tar the rest of our industry with the William Hill brush.
 

Online Casino Dealer

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#11
Perhaps you can enlighten us as to who you are gainfully empoyed by? After all us punters will want to take our custom to your firm as it sounds so socially responsible.
 

Absolutelly Energy

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#12
I daresay it depends on individual branch managers. I know little about gambling first hand (I've never even bought a single lottery ticket), but one of my oldest friends has been manager at various London branches of William Hill (since the early 80s) and he's one of the most scrupulous and honest people I know. He has described various incidents to me and he would never allow punters to get into the situations described in the article.
 

Trigger Finger

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#13
It's far too easy to gamble large amounts of money incredibly quickly and lose it in the blink of an eye. Online and mobile betting is just becoming obscene, I've seen people lose hundreds of pounds in a matter of minutes on what is essentially a coin toss.

The culture surrounding gambling in this country is also like no other place I've ever been. Bookies on every street and a bombardment of adverts on TV and online. I'm generally in favour of free markets being left to themselves but I do think there needs to be some solutions to the gambling epidemic.
 

Red Green Blue

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#14
Social gaming is actually a bigger issue than real money now. It is even less visible because it's all done silently, at home on the computer, on your phone but it's billions and billions of dollars with even less regulation than real-money gaming.
 

Pharaons Tomb

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#15
Yes, great idea, let's ban an activity that many working class people enjoy just because a tiny minority become addicted. No-one is forced to gamble, everyone who's ever placed a bet is making a conscious choice.
 

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