Addicted to gambling: BBC Panorama documentary uncovers how bookmakers operate

girl sitting in front of slot machine

On Monday night BBC’s Panorama focused on the issue of being addicted to gambling.

Hot on the heels of their documentary asking ‘Can you beat the bookies ?’ this was another insight into the way bookmakers operate.

It did not make pretty viewing.

Are the BBC on an anti gambling crusade at the moment?

Who knows?

But in my opinion anything that exposes the way gambling companies operate can only be a good thing.

The documentary told the story of former gambling addicts and other people whose lives were affected by gambling addiction.

Here are their stories.

Tony the gambling addict

Tony was a gambling addict for over 20 years.

After gambling away the family home he stole £3 million from the clients of his business to gamble with.

Tony mainly gambled with Ladbrokes and felt they could have done more to protect him.

At the very least Ladbrokes should have checked where the money was coming from.

Tony gambled with millions of pounds worth of stolen money and Ladbrokes let him do this.

To be fair the regulations regarding this have now changed.

I know from my experience of matched betting that if I move more than a few thousand pounds through an account I will be asked for proof of the source of wealth.

But it is unbelievable that Ladbrokes allowed Tony to gamble so much money, which did not belong to him, until the change in regulations.

VIP Gamblers

Tony also revealed that due to the amount of money he was losing to Ladbrokes he was made a Ladbrokes ‘VIP.’

wembley stadium

This meant that he was given free cash, hospitality at Ascot and Wembley Stadium and access to a VIP manager.

The job of the VIP manager is to keep the VIPs betting.

Panorama spoke to a VIP manager off camera

He revealed that people who fit the profile of a problem gambler were what they liked because,

We can milk them!

He also stated that whilst it may seem like a friendship between the VIPs and the VIP managers it is not.

We called them (the VIPs) mug punters or idiots!

I really can not understand why anybody would want to work as a VIP manager for a bookmaker.

You are basically encouraging people, who you know are problem gamblers, to keep on gambling and spending more money.

The VIP managers do this knowing that the people they are encouraging to spend money are ruining their own lives and the lives of those around them.

In the case of Tony he had managed to quit gambling for 5 months.

The Ladbrokes VIP manager then put £10,000 in Tony’s account to tempt him to gamble again.

It worked and Tony was soon gambling tens of thousands of pounds per day.

Panorama contacted Ladbrokes regarding Tony’s case and they said,

Regulations have changed and this situation would not arise today

Of course if the regulations had not changed Ladbrokes would have happily continued treating Tony and other problem gamblers that way.

Amanda the unlikely gambling addict

One of the other gambling addicts featured on the programme was 61 year old ‘Amanda’ who did not want to be identified.

Unlike Tony she bet exclusively on online slot machines using the Jackpot Joy website.

This was another issue raised by the show.

With the internet and smartphones there is so much more access to gambling than say 10 or 15 years ago.

lady holding smartphone next to laptop

This was the case for Amanda and she ended up spending £5,000 or £10,000 per night on her online gambling habit.

She had received some inheritance money from the sale of her late fathers property.

In one month she deposited £300,000 to Jackpot Joy.

In total she lost £633,000 to Jackpot Joy placing her last bet on the day that she was declared bankrupt.

Similar to Tony, Amanda had a VIP manager.

Once again being a big loser meant she was eligible for the VIP scheme.

Amanda had informed her VIP manager that her father had died.

They sent their condolences and £1000 to continue gambling with.

This is how gambling companies operate so kudos to the BBC for exposing them.

Daniel’s story

If you thought the stories of Tony and Amanda were bad, there was worse to come in this documentary.

Daniel Clinkscales was a gambling addict who took his own life at the age of 35.

Unfortunately he is not the only one.

As a result of this Daniel’s mother, along with other parents who share the same tragic circumstances, have set up a charity called gambling with lives.

The charity aims to support families bereaved by gambling related suicides and raise awareness of the mental health problems related to gambling.

As Daniel’s mother said,

They can say when the fun stops, stop – but these people do not have a stop mechanism

So where does this leave the gambling companies?

Conflict of interest

There is a clear conflict of interest for gambling companies because problem gamblers produce huge profits.

The programme revealed that one study found that 4% of players contributed 78% of revenue.

So the regulations should not be left to the betting companies.

Neil McArthur, the head of the Gambling Commission was interviewed as part of the show regarding this.

High stake betting machines have now being banned on the high street.

However he stated that they will not limit stake sizes on online slot machines as the operators ought to be able to keep players safe.

I am not sure I would trust the gambling companies to keep players safe!

To be fair to the gambling commission in the last year they have issued record fines to gambling companies for failing to monitor problem gamblers and money launderers.


Although this BBC documentary was about being addicted to gambling it revealed that only 0.7% of the population is a problem gambler.

That may sound like a small percentage but it amounts to 430,000 people.

The majority of people who gamble are not problem gamblers.

But in my opinion the gambling companies do not do enough to protect the problem gamblers.

In fact as revealed in the show not only do the gambling companies not protect problem gamblers but they actively encourage them to gamble.

The regulations have changed in recent years but I would be very surprised if the gambling companies did not continue to take advantage of problem gamblers.

Problem gamblers could ruin their lives, lose everything and even end up killing themselves.

But the gambling companies do not care, as long as they make a profit.

The fact that his documentary was broadcast on national television will help to expose the underhand tactics of the gambling companies.

And that can only be a good thing.

Did you watch the addicted to gambling BBC Panorama documentary?

What did you think about the show?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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