This book by Guardian journalist Rob Davies is a “methodical, sensitive and at times harrowing polemic about the gaming industry,” said Rosamund Urwin in The Sunday Times. It shows how gambling has grown in popularity in the UK over the past 15 years, enriching industry bosses (like Bet365 founder Denise Coates, who received an estimated £421m paycheck in 2020) and ruining thousands of lives. The Blair government got the ball rolling and introduced policies that, according to Davies, aimed to “integrate gambling into the general leisure sector”. Blair’s original plan was to open “super casinos” across the country. But then came the internet, followed by smartphones, bringing a super casino into every player’s pocket. Davies peppers his account with tragic tales of players driven to despair and suicide. And he highlights the industry’s “predatory practices” such as showering so-called VIPs – the 5% of players who make up the majority of profits – with incentives and rewards.
The gaming industry has also thoroughly infiltrated football thanks to its “diabolical marketing genius,” Jake Kerridge said in The Daily Telegraph. Gambling logos are visible on the screen in most cases game of the day, and many games now start at 8:15 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. “to allow half-time commercial breaks to start at 9 p.m. when the daily embargo on gambling advertising is lifted”. As a result, gambling winnings from soccer have almost doubled in the last five years. Although the government has attempted to curb some of the excesses in the industry, its efforts have been downright half-hearted, likely because “gambling brings in huge amounts of tax money to the treasury”. This “eye-opening” book suggests that the “problem gambling epidemic” the UK is facing is not going away.
Guardian Faber 384 pages £14.99; The bookstore of the week £11.99
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https://www.theweek.co.uk/arts-life/culture/books/956137/book-review-jackpot-by-rob-davies Book Review: Jackpot by Rob Davies