Frustrated Britons on lockdown are turning to betting on bizarre and obscure minority sports to pass the time.
UK politicians are concerned that this could be leading to a dangerous gambling habit and in an open letter to the Betting & Gaming Council (BG&C), a number of MPs have requested a daily £50 betting cap to be put into place.
The coronavirus pandemic has seen the gambling industry hit hard in recent weeks, largely due to the cancellation of sporting events across the globe including premier league football, rugby, cricket, golf and horse racing. It was reported that Flutter Entertainment, who owns Betfair and Paddy Power, are expected to lose over £110 million as a result of the virus.
Bookmakers have shown an increase in betting for obscure sports that are still going on, despite coronavirus. This include Russian Table Tennis, Australian Horse Racing, eSports and Japanese Baseball – all currently being played behind closed doors.
Meanwhile, instead of betting on players, golfers are turning to Golf Coaching online while they can’t play.
But studies suggest that people who are prepared to bet on obscure sports may be exhibiting problematic behaviour.
The Guardian has discovered that an internal email sent by a William Hill manager suggests staff “talk to customers about what other things they can bet on – table tennis and Japanese baseball are proving very popular.”
In a further attempt to ramp up profits, online operators have been eager to push offers, bonuses and free spins for new customers – and the UK government has responded with plans for a cap in place for the next few weeks.
Gambling operators have seen huge falls in profits and dives in their share prices in recent weeks. Other challenges have been the introduction of regulation for fixed-odd betting terminals, that have capped slot games at £2 per bet – and the forced closure of hundreds of betting stores across the UK has continued to worse profits across the industry.
“In our clinics, some of the most harmful gambling is that which diversifies to betting on things our patients know nothing about,” said Matt Gaskell, Clinical Lead for the NHS northern gambling clinics in the letter.
Online sport doesn’t have to involve gambling at all. For example, we’ve seen virtual cycle racing, a huge growth in things like Peloton and even online golf lessons – and they work.
In the letter to the BCG, former Conservative Party Leader, Iain Duncan Smith wrote:
“It’s pretty appalling that in the midst of all this difficulty and suffering, gambling companies are so desperate to ensure that those who gamble can continue to throw their money away that they direct them to all sorts of little-known and little-watched sports.”