Gambling is not something I have a big problem with in my life, yet. But I have made a few bets in my time (sorry mum). I put a fiver on Napoli to win the Champions league in 2013. I also believe Qatar will win the world Cup in 2022. When I went into the bookies asking for odds on this happening they looked at me like I had two heads. I also made a bet with my brother that I could go a whole Skiing Holiday eating only healthy food and getting fit. When we arrived at the Chalet and found out that we had our own personal dessert chef, I quickly realised I was going to lose this bet. As a result I had to run around the Chalet through the snow wearing only swimming trunks.
These bets are tame compared to some. I haven’t hit rock bottom with gambling but I recall getting briefly hooked on the 2p machines at Barry’s in Portrush as an 8 year old. I remember asking my dad for just a few more 2p coins, I knew I could win it back, the machine was just about to crack. I knew it. 20 minutes later I left that 2p machine penniless and defeated, but I had also learned a valuable lesson. The house always wins. Sadly, this is a lesson many gambling addicts learn over and over again and yet still go back for more.
The nature of addiction means that it takes over. There is always a danger of relapse and many recovering addicts never feel completely out of the woods. Getting over a habit can be tough, with the slightest reminder of your old ways triggering the repeated pattern of destructive behaviour all over again. It is into this setting that we meet Ray Winstone.
Ray Winstone is an actor in his late 50s who has nailed the ‘East End Gangster’ character. However, this guy has range. He can also play a gangster from Boston or New York. As well as this he can play the police detective who doesn’t play by the rules and he can also play a pirate. If you can’t get Robert DeNiro, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson, Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Michael Caine, Ray Liotta, Bryan Cranston, Dean Cain, Michael Fassbender or Gerard Depardieu for your movie then this guy is your man. He is a great actor and when he is performing it is tough not to pay attention to him. His tough guy image is infectious. Just watching him for a few minutes I feel empowered. Instantly, my freshly shaven face regains all of its stubble and I feel like I could beat up Grant Mitchell with Phil Mitchell’s head.
Ray Winstone is an influencer, and the faceless marketing guys know it. This is the reason why when you watch any football match on Sky or BT you see his face at pre kickoff and half-time encouraging you to put a fiver on ‘The next player to score to be called Dave’ or ‘The odds of Jack Wilshere’s cruciate ligament making it to full time’. Addicts see this and are triggered, reminded of the vice that has a grip over their mind.
This is how advertising works. A bunch of guys in suits gather in a dark room. The oldest guy in the most expensive suit walks into the room and says, “Good news guys, we’ve got the advertising contract for an online betting company.
How are we going to make the most money possible for this company?” The ad executives in question have decided that Ray is their man. He can reach their target audience with his powers of persuasion. One of the guys in suits has a conscience, “Don’t you think we are taking this a bit too far and taking advantage of people?” He is immediately told to get out.
The slick advert is published at peak time, during the football, to an audience of millions. However, it doesn’t reach all of them. The first to go are the guys in the pub who are away to the bathroom. Then there are the people like my friend Simon who records the match and watches it later, fast forwarding through the adverts. Of the people who see the ad the next to switch off are the people who are repulsed by Ray Winstone. When you have tough guy looks on the surface, matched with a teddy bear like quality and piecing eyes revealing a hidden sensitive side that has yet to be unlocked, it is fair to say there are not many people out there who can resist this Ray of sunshine, most of the people watching are still engaged. Then there are the rich people who have enough money any don’t feel the need to gamble, they have bigger problems like ‘how are we going to clean the dirt off the high ceilings in the mansion?’ or ‘where can I find a hair piece that doesn’t look like a live squirrel is resting on my head?’ Then finally the advert hones in on it’s target, the gambling addict. The guy who has hit rock bottom many times. The guy who doesn’t leave the bookies until it closes. The guy who has lost his job, his house, his wife and his kids all because of gambling. He may have decided to turn his life around, he may have gone trough a recovery course in an attempt to get help, he may have even forgotten that he used to gamble heavily… until he is reminded by Ray’s advert.
Off the gambling addict goes, on his relapse. He knows it’s a bad idea but he does it anyway, with money he doesn’t have. Hours or days later, money down he comes to his senses. Back to square one.
Yes, this relapse could have happened anyway, but Ray reminding him of his old ways just got the ball rolling that little bit faster. The advertising company has done their job, money is in the bank. Is it their fault that lives are getting ruined? No, because Ray always tells their customers to ‘ Geam-boe-wis-ponse-sib-bwey’.
Clearly I’m no english expert, but isn’t responsible gambling an oxymoron? The advertising company know what they are doing. Their business model is to target poor vulnerable addicted men. This is obvious. They aren’t using Mary Berry from the great British Bake off to target people. They aren’t putting the adverts out in the middle of Loose women.
I guess the big issue with gambling adverts is that I don’t think they are needed. We live in a free world, where people can gamble if they want. There are lots of things people can do if they want and no one will stop them, but no one needs to be reminded how to gamble. It’s instinctive for the people who want to do it. These adverts don’t make the world a better place.
Promoting gambling isn’t like promoting other products. There are plenty of car insurance adverts out there. No one is going around addicted to finding cheaper car insurance. There are adverts for washing powder, no one’s life was ruined because their clothes were dazzlingly white and smelled like the Alps in spring. Gambling is different. It has to be treated with a bit more respect. People who choose to gamble should do so with minimal external influence. They shouldn’t be pushed into it by some faceless company who would like nothing better than to give them a taxi on their journey to rock bottom making money off them all the way down.
Advertising companies generally have no interest in the moral of a situation. If they are selling something particularly harmful, they will want to know how they can spin the message to make it sound appealing. They don’t care that lives can potentially get ruined by the product they are promoting. All they care about is that clients are happy and money is steadily coming in. Advertise first, ask questions later. Instead of Ray Winstone telling the people watching to Gamble Responsibly, maybe he should be telling his bosses to think about advertising responsibly. Maybe the responsible thing to do is to go back and make a few more gangster movies before Danny Dyer gets more popular.