16 February 2022 03:42 PM

Political Agenda – Matt Zarb-Cousin

16 February 2022

In this episode of Political Agenda, Chris Lomas speaks to Matt Zarb-Cousin, a reformed gambling addict, whose campaigning on the topic is helping to shape a landmark review on changing the UK’s gambling laws.

At 16, Matt became addicted to fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) and ran up gambling debts of around £20,000.

Zarb-Cousin admits gambling addiction “does completely take over your life.

“Your brain is effectively telling you need to gamble to live… you don’t derive pleasure from anything else.”

As a recovered gambling addict, Matt set up and is director of Clean Up Gambling, a campaign group to lobby the government to reform the UK’s gambling laws, and was recently featured on ‘Paul Merson: Football, Gambling and Me.’

For Zarb-Cousin, viewing gambling as a potential health risk is crucial.

“That’s one of the things we want to shift, is that understanding, that framework to a public health framework, and that’s how we should regulate it.”

Since the 2005 Gambling Act, the digital revolution of the 21st century has changed the gambling landscape. According to Zarb-Cousin, the UK’s current gambling laws are poorly equipped to deal with the challenges presented by the gambling industry.

“I think we know so much more about gambling harm and how it’s caused now compared to the 2005 Gambling Act before we had smartphones and before internet gambling really took off.

“That legislation now needs to be brought into 2022.

Creating a gambling ombudsman, more money to treat gambling addiction, and changing the laws on advertising are just some of the changes advocated by Zarb-Cousin.

“All of these things I think aren’t radical,” he said.

The sheer volume of gambling advertising in society is another key aspect Zarb-Cousin is adamant needs changing.

“I think there’s an argument to end all advertising.

“Advertising around football and the impact it’s having on children… the evidence is overwhelming.”

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