IAN HART: Is gambling any less a vice than booze and cigarettes?

Ian Hart
Ian Hart

Back in the 1970s and 80s, tobacco and alcohol sponsorships were big business in British sport.

In cricket, we had the John Player League, the Benson and Hedges Cup, both snooker and darts had world championships sponsored by Embassy for more than 20 years, even the Grand National had both a whisky and brandy sponsor over the years, and Formula 1 had its very own tobacco-sponsored car, the JPS, which was later mass produced for the toy market with the accompanying cigarette advertising.

We even had the legendary Rothmans Football Yearbook, the bible for every football journalist worth his salt.

Then Tony Blair and his Labour government decided that needed to change, given the harmful effects of tobacco and alcohol.

All very commendable, as public health and wellbeing is essential in today’s society.

Many sports and specific events suffered because of the banning of the advertising and endorsement. But, as my old Gran used to say, to make and omelette you have crack an egg.

Now years on, many sports now are endorsed or sponsored by gambling firms.

In fact, nine of the 20 Premier League clubs have commercial links with betting companies.

Yes, we know tobacco and alcohol are harmful. But gambling can be equally so.

In my view, gambling addiction is every bit as severe as alcohol abuse or smoking, yet as a society why do we just turn a blind eye?

Sadly, I personally know of people who have lost everything through a gambling addiction.

It can break up families and, in extreme cases, can even end up taking lives.

I wonder if Mr Blair and his cronies could have envisaged which direction we were eventually going to take in this process when they put the original legislation through Parliament all those years ago?