An anywhere, anytime gambling culture has changed the face of a £6.3 billion UK industry over the past 15 years. As Liane Wimhurst reports fresh attempts are being made by British bookies to prevent a harmless flutter from becoming a dangerous addiction
British bookies want an image overhaul Replacing addicts with responsible bettors. But what are the odds that they'll be successful? PTC Bookmakers like these are promising to weed out problem gamblers. The 6.3 billion pound industry is under pressure. Round-the-clock gambling means punters can make limitless bets. Placing wagers on anything from the gender of the royal baby to the next pope. A spike in young addicts is driving a rethink on betting rules. Big players like William Hill, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power suggest self-policing. Keith Weir is company news editor at Reuters. SOUNDBITE: Keith Weir, Chief Company News Editor, ThomsonReuters, saying (English): "They want people to gamble but they don't want to be dragged down by addiction and problem gambling." In the past, gambling had to be done in person or by phone This is Ladbrokes in 1974 and the women are taking bets on the general election. SOUNDBITE: Keith Weir, Chief Company News Editor, ThomsonReuters, saying (English): "Now every pub is effectively a betting shop because you can go in and watch a game and bet while you're there." But how can you tell when hobby becomes compulsion? Harvard scientists think an algorithm has the answer. It monitors win-loss responses, average stakes and betting frequency. The UK industry will use this to pinpoint risky behaviour. Such gamblers could have their accounts closed and be referred to help groups. Full roll-out of the scheme is due next year. Bookies hope it will get the government off their backs and ease public opinion But identifying addicts could still be the luck of the draw.