As the super-casino war is played out across the UK, an insolvency specialist has warned of the dangers of the growing popularity of gambling.
Bev Budsworth of The Debt Advisor says the company is already seeing victims of the recent trend for online gambling, some of whom have run up debts of over £100,000 playing online poker or in internet casinos.
Having spent three years as a croupier in Sun City in her earlier days, she knows first hand how people get caught up with the thrill of gambling in beautifully opulent surroundings. Also, with the relaxation of the previous restriction of consuming alcohol at the tables, it is too easy to get carried away and gamble more than you can afford.
The proposed creation of a new super-casino will no doubt bring exciting employment opportunities as well as additional leisure pursuits. Having a small flutter can be fun but be cautious, adds Bev:
· Work out how much you can comfortably afford to gamble
· Draw this out in cash and leave your credit card/debit card at home - that way you can’t be tempted to draw out more and seriously dent your budget for the month/year.
· Remember the odds are stacked against you and eventually the casino will win.
Her comments come as the race to secure the sole super-casino continues, with eight operators on the regulator’s shortlist including two from London and bids from Blackpool, Cardiff, Manchester and Sheffield.
Ms Budsworth says: “There has always been a certain proportion of debt problems due to gambling and traditionally there is very much a cash culture. The lure of the super-casino may be too much for gambling addicts, with unlimited slot machine jackpots. Ten years ago, few people, especially women, would venture into a betting shop, but with the rise of on-line and large Vegas-style casinos, it’s more socially acceptable and on-line gambling can be funded on your credit cards. This should carry a serious health warning.”
The Casino Advisory Panel, an independent body appointed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to choose the location, is offering licences for one super-casino, eight large casinos and eight small casinos.
The main variation between the three is the size of the customer area allowed. The super-casino will have a minimum customer area of 5,000 sq m and 1,250 unlimited-jackpot slot machines. The large and smaller casinos will be able to offer a maximum jackpot of £4,000.
GamCare, the gambling charity helpline, found the number of people using the charity for counselling had increased by 41.3% - to 6,563 people - between 2004 and 2005. It said more than a quarter of gambling addicts using the charity's service were women.
Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, said she did not think the casinos would increase problem gambling, but she would be prepared to close them down if they did.
Ms Budsworth says many gamblers follow the traditional pattern of trying to ‘chase their debts’, betting more and more heavily in an increasingly desperate attempt to win back the money to pay them off. As they do so, they resort to using multiple credit cards and running each to the limit. Friends and family may be unaware of their problems.
Ms Budsworth adds: “As well as the proliferation of internet sites, it’s worrying that gambling appears to be getting a more glamorous image, with poker in particular being presented as a celebrity pastime and television programmes devoted to the game. The increasing amount of money spent on gambling could lead to a rise in consumer debt nationwide and debt misery for many more households.”
For further information please contact Joanne Fletcher-Wall or Alex Henshall at Bell Pottinger North on 01625 506444 or email:
Notes to editors
The Debt Advisor is licensed by the Insolvency Practitioners Association to offer skilled and specialist advice on personal debt. Formed in 1999, the Debt Advisor works closely with those in debt to find solutions, which can protect assets from creditors, freeze interest and charges to repay debt in five years or less. At its website - www.thedebtadvisor.co.uk <http://www.thedebtadvisor.co.uk/> - there is useful information including an online debt calculator to assist with budgeting.
Bev Budsworth is an insolvency practitioner with more than 20 years’ experience in dealing with debt issues.
A regular media commentator, Bev has spoken on a wide-range of issues including divorce, self-certificated mortgages, DIY, mature debt and online gambling. She has been regularly quoted in The Guardian, Daily Telegraph, The Observer, Daily and Sunday Express as well as women’s magazines including Woman and Red. In the last 12 months she has offered advice on regional television news programmes and BBC local radio phone-ins.
In June 2000 she established The Debt Advisor, one of the first firms to offer comprehensive advice on all debt issues. She had previously spent 17 years with an international firm of chartered accountants where she specialised in personal and business insolvency.
Her experience of dealing with personal debt issues led in 2005 to her being asked to join a government-led working party to look at ways of simplifying the formal procedures of helping people out of debt.
Since then she has led the way in calling for a professional personal debt/insolvency study course to be set up for all people involved in debt advice to individuals.
She works together with a psychologist and they have developed strategies to help motivate clients to change their lifestyle. As a busy married mother of three teenage children she understands the pressures that families face. She believes that with a positive outlook there is always a sensible way to deal with financial difficulties and turn lives around.
Bev recently launched a campaign to bring about a greater understanding of debt and its links to depression giving debtors in the UK access to a two-pronged approach to relieve the misery caused by debt. She is the first in the UK to offer debt advice and personal counselling under one roof. The campaign is geared to help those who are seriously struggling with the wider effects including depression, relationship breakdown, poor work performance and associated health problems.