Thursday, 10 June 2021

Strange bedfellows in the moral crusade against gambling

Mary Whitehouse at the Festival of Light, 1971

Of all the 'anti' groups I write about, the anti-gambling coalition is the most unusual. It includes the Salvation Army, a leftwing think tank (the IPPR), a rightwing think tank (the Centre for Social Justice), problem gambling charities, the Times, the Guardian, the Evangelical Alliance, various bishops, and elements of the rival arcade, casino and pub industries.  

This loose alliance formed over the fixed odds betting terminal issue and was already in the making when the moral panic about 'super-casinos' emerged in the early 2000s. They have now got the band back together to campaign against internet gambling, as I mention in A Safer Bet

No one is keener on this campaign than the Guardian who yesterday reported...
ITV criticised for not banning gambling ads during Euro 2020
Did anyone expect gambling ads to be banned during Euro 2020? This is the first I've heard of it.
You can always tell whose side a newspaper is on by how they frame the story. For example, when the Guardian uses the headline 'Oxford college criticised for refusal to remove Cecil Rhodes statue', you know they think the statue should have been removed. If they had been against it, they would have found someone who agreed with the decision and written 'Oxford college praised for refusal to remove Cecil Rhodes statue'. If they had just wanted to report the news, they would have said 'Oxford college refuses to remove Rhodes statue'. 
In the case of gambling ads during Euro 2020, there is no real climate of opinion against them. In 2019, the gambling industry introduced a whistle-to-whistle voluntary ban before 9pm (foolishly in my opinion), so there are not going to be many gambling ads on TV anyway. It is a non-story, so the Guardian has tried to create a story by finding one person who is unhappy.

The head of the social policy group Care has written to the chairman and chief executive of ITV criticising its decision not to suspend gambling adverts during the Euro 2020 football tournament, which starts on Friday.

... In a letter, Nola Leach, the chief executive of Care (Christian Action Research and Education), called on the ITV chairman, Sir Peter Bazalgette, and the chief executive, Carolyn McCall, to forgo gambling ad revenue during the tournament.

“As the CEO of an organisation which is working to raise awareness of gambling-related harms and see them reduced through legislative action I was deeply disappointed by this response, which confirms that you do not intend to take any further action to reduce the number of adverts shown,” she said.

The news story is all about this one letter. You can find someone who will write an angry letter about anything so what is it about this organisation that makes it newsworthy? On the face of it, Christian Action Research and Education does not sound like the kind of group the Guardian normally pays much heed of.

Indeed, Care's original name was the National Festival of Light. Formed in 1971 by Malcolm Muggeridge and Mary Whitehouse, the Festival of Light was seen as a reactionary movement even at the time with its demands to 'clean up TV' and restore Christian mortality. 
It became the Christian Action Research and Education in 1983 and, until yesterday, only ever featured in the Guardian for lobbying against gay rights, campaigning to change abortion laws and promoting gay conversion therapy.  

It's not terribly surprising that they are also against gambling. What is more surprising is that they have found common cause with the UK's main 'liberal' newspaper on this issue, but perhaps the moral censors of the left have more in common with the moral censors of the right than they think.

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