UK – Sports betting firms in the UK have been accused of taking obscure bets as desperation kicks in during the Covid-19 outbreak, which has oversaw one of the quietest periods on the global sports calendar in recent history.
According to reports, bettors have been placing wagers on virtual sports, virtual games and the few sporting events that are still taking place, such as table tennis and low-key baseball.
Politicians in the UK are urging gambling and betting firms to impose a maximum cap of £50 per day as a temporary measure to avoid risky wagers due to the lack of mainstream sport.
Whilst some companies are moving their marketing materials to other products, such as casino, some firms are promoting obscure and rare sports markets that are available to wager on.
Politicians and Members of Parliament spoke out about the need for a cap during the coronavirus amid gambling problems:
“We are deeply concerned that as we go deeper into this crisis, more and more people will turn to online gambling as a distraction. If the industry were to self-impose a daily limit of £50, it would be a clear demonstration that the industry is willing to act responsibly and do what they can to protect society and peoples’ finances, at this dreadful time. It’s pretty appalling that in the midst of all this difficulty and suffering, gambling companies are so desperate to ensure that those who gamble can continue to throw their money away that they direct them to all sorts of little-known and little-watched sports.”
Clinical lead for the NHS northern gambling clinics Matt Gaskell also commented:
“The industry continues to do all it can to increase profits, keep gamblers immersed and in continual play, at the expense of people’s lives. If they’re targeting someone to bet on this kind of sport, or computer-generated events, it can only be because that person is someone with a problem, to be gambling on something that obscure. It’s the industry trying to capitalise on a national disaster, encouraging problem gambling with reckless and foolhardy behaviour.”
The announcement for a £50 cap came just hours before Prime Minister Boris Johnson enforced a new three week ‘lock down’ period so that ‘people must stay at home except for shopping for basic necessities, daily exercise, any medical need and travelling to and from work where absolutely necessary’.
As the Coronavirus crisis rumbles on, an employee of a leading betting firm in the UK spoke out anonymously about the current situation inside betting shops:
“There were no gloves or nothing like that and we had to clean the shops and clear away the pens people use to write down bets. I was sitting in there and it was all older people coming in the shop, over-70s staying in there for ages, and it just seemed crazy. Staff were worried because they have nans and granddads and there are sick people in their families. It just feels like a breeding ground for it.”