Opinion  

Ban gambling adverts

Simon Read

Simon Read

Imagine if financial service companies were allowed to advertise like bookies.

A threatening but genial cockney actor would suddenly fill your screen with the words: “Ere, you wanna get rich? Shove yer savings into Integrity Investments Hot Prospects Fund. Fill yer boots now!”

Who could resist? Advertisements that appealed to such naked greed may well persuade more people to invest, rather than blow their savings on gambling on football or the horses.

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Would that not be a good thing? The thought struck me as I watched football on a commercial channel at the weekend and as a consequence was bombarded with bookies’ exhortations to gamble all my money – and quickly.

A wager can be fun: you enjoy a punt on the Grand National or betting with mates about the outcome of a match you are watching – that is a harmless bit of amusement.

But the gambling companies want to turn it into a massive bit of profit for themselves.

It is no surprise to learn that Britain’s most highly paid boss last year was Denise Coates, the co-founder of online gambling company Bet365, which coincidentally splashes out tens of millions on its aggressive TV ads that feature cockney actor Ray Winstone.

She pocketed £265m, all handed over by punters.

Imagine if all that cash had been invested instead? But do not just imagine the £265m that Ms Coates made, think much bigger. 

Imagine the total £14.4bn that the UK gambling industry made in a year (the latest published figures cover until March 2018).

If that had been invested by punters instead of wagered, there would be millions of Britons in a much better financial position, surely?

Compare that figure to the difference between the amount UK investors had invested in funds at November 2018 compared to a year earlier.

The figures published by the Investment Association show that there was £10.5bn less invested.

After reaching a record high in 2017, retail sales may have fallen to a 10-year low in 2018.

There is a big reason for investors’ unease – the continuing Brexit uncertainty.

Once the current political turmoil dies down, then investors may well return to the market.

But beyond these short-term concerns, there should be concern about the amount of cash people are happy to throw away on gambling to get short-terms gains, while ignoring the need to stash cash away for long-term security.

Here are two facts: regular gambling can ruin lives, but regular saving can improve lives.

When I raised these issues on Twitter, Informed Choice’s respected financial planner Nick Bamford chimed in with a telling point.

He said: “It’s still easier to gamble £10k or borrow £10k than it is to invest £10k for your family’s future.”