Book review: Jackpot by Rob Davies
This book is a ‘sensitive and occasionally harrowing polemic about the gambling industry’
This book by the Guardian journalist Rob Davies is a “methodical, sensitive and occasionally harrowing polemic about the gambling industry”, said Rosamund Urwin in The Sunday Times. It charts how, over the past 15 years, gambling has exploded in popularity in Britain, vastly enriching industry bosses (such as Bet365 founder Denise Coates, who received an estimated £421m pay cheque in 2020), while ruining thousands of lives. The Blair government set the ball rolling, introducing measures which Davies says aimed to “integrate gambling into the general leisure sector”. Blair’s original scheme was for “super casinos” to open across the country. But then the internet arrived, followed by the smartphone, putting a super casino in every punter’s pocket. Davies peppers his account with tragic tales of gamblers who have been driven to desperation and suicide. And he highlights the industry’s “predatory practices”, such as showering so-called VIPs – the 5% of gamblers who account for the bulk of profits – with inducements and rewards.
Thanks to its “diabolical marketing genius”, the gambling industry has also thoroughly infiltrated football, said Jake Kerridge in The Daily Telegraph. Gambling logos are visible on screen throughout most of Match of the Day, and many matches now kick off at 8.15pm instead of 8pm “so that the half-time ad breaks can begin at 9pm, when the daily embargo on gambling ads is lifted”. As a result, gambling profits from football nearly doubled in the past five years. Although the Government has tried to curb some of the industry’s excesses, its efforts have been distinctly half-hearted, probably because “gambling yields the Exchequer huge amounts in tax”. This “eye-opening” book suggests the “epidemic of problem gambling” Britain faces isn’t about to go away.
Guardian Faber 384pp £14.99; The Week Bookshop £11.99
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