A Maltese-British man who recovered from a gambling addiction more than 10 years ago is running a campaign to force the UK government to ban betting shops from sponsoring football shirts.
Matt Zarb-Cousin was interested in gaming machines in betting shops from the age of 16 and had amassed a gambling debt of £ 20,000 in four years before he got over his addiction.
The 31-year-old played a key role in the campaign for the UK government to lower the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTS) to £ 2. Now he has his sights set on sponsoring betting in football.
“In the past few years I’ve seen gambling become a public health problem,” he told the Times of Malta.
“Since the launch of ‘Clean-Up Gambling’ in April 2020, we have received overwhelming support from the public, who also advocate a ban on shirt sponsorship. Some also believe that advertising should be removed from football matches.”
Zarb-Cousin, who was the spokesman for ex-UK Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, said sponsoring gambling negatively affects young people and 450,000 children between the ages of 11 and 16 in the UK regularly bet.
In the UK, 450,000 children between the ages of 11 and 16 regularly sit
“We are seeing this problem increase as younger people gamble and become addicted,” he said.
“There are numerous studies that indicate that children are directly affected by sponsorship. This is one of the main reasons we advocate fair and stricter rules on gambling.
“Today the UK online gambling industry makes 60 percent of its profits with 5 percent of players who are addicted or at risk of addiction. We want to change that, ”he added.
“Unfortunately, the laws of UK Gambling Act are extremely out of date as a lot has changed since 2005. Today, anyone can access online gambling with just a click of the mouse and risk becoming addicted without any stake restrictions.”
When asked if he believes the authorities will accept his recommendations, Zarb-Cousin said the government appears to be committed and “seriously considering the ban”.
Zarb cousin, whose father is Maltese, said Malta should be at the forefront when it comes to making sure the gambling industry is sustainable.
It is estimated that iGaming operators accounted for 13.7 percent of Malta’s total economic activity in 2019 and contributed to the economic performance of other key sectors.
“It is important that Malta recognize that a company that makes such high income from addicted customers is unsustainable and does not last forever,” he said.
“It would be an advantage if Malta were included in the current talks on sustainable gaming, especially as the industry plays a big role in the economy.”
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