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MP slams ‘parasite’ gambling industry as SPFL close to deal with William Hill

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News of the move has been met with fierce criticism from Ronnie Cowan, who has worked to raise awareness of gambling-related harm for many years and is the vice-chair of Westminster’s all party parliamentary group on gambling-related harm.

Mr Cowan today told the Tele that it was important to safeguard young people and those who are vulnerable from being exposed to gambling adverts.

Greenock Telegraph: Ronnie Cowan MP

He said: “If this goes ahead it will be a major set-back for football and sport in Scotland.

“The gambling industry is a parasite living off the life blood of the sports it uses.

“The promotion of gambling through sports advertising and sponsorship leads to a normalisation of gambling and the potential for an increased level of addiction.

“While I understand the need to attract money into football, the game should be attractive enough to be sponsored by organisations that do not sell a potentially lethal product.

“I have been a Morton fan all my life – I was born into a football family – but I fear that gambling is increasingly being promoted and the game is being relegated.

“Sponsorship makes gambling the most important factor and the sport a poor second.”

Mr Cowan recently led a Westminster debate which highlighted the harm caused by gambling advertising in sport and spoke of the ‘urgent need for reform.

He says that further gambling advertising at stadiums would put more people at risk.

He added: “The game’s not the same without a bet. That’s the message.

“While it may appear to be a harmless pastime, and for most it is, gambling is addictive and if the SPFL is sponsored, young fans will be further exposed to the brand.

“The presence of adverts around the pitch and throughout the stadiums means that everyone is targeted including the young, the vulnerable and those already experiencing gambling related harm.

“The only way to avoid the adverts is to not watch the games.

“Otherwise, fans are bombarded with gambling marketing making it a normal part of football consumption.”

Mr Cowan also took aim at ‘weak’ legislation around gambling advertising and said that the industry was ‘clearly unwilling’ to self-regulate.

He said: “People suffering from gambling related harm will have a reduced quality of life, problems with their social life, financial problems, and relationship problems.

“It can lead to criminal activity and difficulties at work.

“A Public Health England study published in September 2021 estimated that there are more than 400 suicides each year in England associated with problem gambling.

“We need to understand the nature of addiction and see it as a health issue.

“We need to slow down gambling, build in cooling off periods and give people space and time to consider their actions and the outcomes.

“Advertising through sports does the opposite of those. It pushes, it cajoles, it encourages.

“We need to respect the fact that some people may be triggered by adverts. We need to protect our children.”

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