Smartphone ads fuel growing gambling problem says Church of Scotland leader

(Photo: REUTERS / Beck Diefenbach)San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino's online gambling app "Code Red" is demonstrated in the exhibitors room at the GiGse online gaming convention at the Westin hotel in San Francisco, California, April 24, 2012. Online poker is a business that involves processing billions of dollars worth of bets and battling the fraudsters, cheats and robot-player software that can ruin the games. Hence the casinos are cozying up to some tech-savvy offshore partners whose pedigrees might give regulators pause. Online gambling is popular in Scotland.

The moderator of the Church of Scotland has highlighted the problem of gambling in her country saying that adverts placed in smartphones and tablets are fueling the debt problem.

"In 2014, we in Scotland will make some decisions which will chart the course of our future as a country," said (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland Moderator Rev. Lorna Hood in her New Year's message.

She was referring to a referendum this year in which Scotland will vote on whether to become independent of the rest of the United Kingdom.

Encouraging Scotland's debt problems are television advertising and electronic gadgets said Hood who is the third woman to be moderator of the Kirk, as it is known informally.

"Adverts during sports and other TV programs encourage us to place bets using tablets and smartphones within arm's reach," she said.

The current global economic crisis stemming from 2008 hinges on debt at every level of society and church leaders in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom have recently hit out at many of the lending practices.

An editorial on January 1 in The Herald newspaper, published in Glasgow, said that a downside of the National Lottery in Britain that was first established in 1994 was that gambling became entwined with people's lives.


It refers to Rev. Hood's message than more Scots are becoming addicted to gambling because it is now "cool and normalised."

The editorial says that along with pay-day loans, that as easy to obtain at high interest rates "betting is making a significant contribution to the debt crisis faced by thousands of Scottish families."

The Herald cites the Scottish Health Survey published in 2013 which said that 70 percent of Scots had gambled over the past year.

"That's three million people, and the UK Gambling Commission estimate that 31,000 of them are addicted - not far short of the number of hard drug addicts in Scotland."

The betting problem, says The Herald, worsened significantly in 2005 following easing of gambling regulations allowing online gaming companies to advertise on media in the UK.

"Online gambling is now worth nearly 2 billion British pounds (US$3.3 billion) a year in the UK. The UK gambling industry as a whole enjoyed a jackpot yield of £6.3 billion last year, up 7 percent."

The Herald says that gambling does not discriminate between age and social class and that the online version of it appeals to middle class women since it can be carried out privately without going to a betting shop or casino.

Gambling is no respecter of age or social class. Online gambling is particularly attractive to middle-class women since it can be carried out discretely in the home and doesn't involve a trip to the bookmaker or casino.

Hood says in her message, "Gambling has a long history, but we are now in an era where it is more accessible because of new technology and promoted more through mass advertising.

"The ads seek to present regular gambling as a cool, normalised part of our culture. Companies may become richer through this commerce.

"The danger is that individuals and their families simply become debt-ridden, with all the misery that entails."

The moderator says, "From within the Christian faith we are called upon not only to dream of a just and fair society but to put all our efforts into building that society."

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