Recovering addicts have urged Transport for London to remove gambling adverts from the London Underground, with a proposed ban yet to be implemented.
Sadiq Khan pledged to get rid of gambling adverts on the TfL Network in his manifesto last year.
But there is still no timetable for getting rid of the adverts, with campaigners and opposition politicians warning that TfL is still profiting from marketing that encourages addiction.
READ MORE: TfL accused of skipping Tube services before stopping road deaths
Now gambling campaigners have told MyLondon that Mr Khan must urgently move forward with his advertising ban.
Tottenham fan James Grimes started betting on football aged 16 in 2006. It turned into a 12-year-old addiction that cost him around £100,000.
Mr Grimes told MyLondon that advertising played a huge part in his addiction.
He said: “I trusted the messages football gave me. Clubs and leagues told me to bet – and it worked.
“At 18, I had access to online gaming which took it to a whole new level. Ads played a huge role in normalizing and glamorizing what I was doing.
“It was lying to me, and he was a big prick. He told me that gambling was a way to have fun, to earn money and to be accepted. Addiction took all that away from me.
“That’s why I feel irritated by this. Another generation of kids are dealing with this level of ads.”
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His The Big Step campaign is concerned that gambling ads continue to run on the subway.
He added: “We posted a video in December of the lifts in the metro. Every ad was a game ad. There doesn’t seem to be much action on the Tube ban.
“We know very well that gambling advertising does a lot of harm. It’s sold as a ticket to a better life, when it’s nonsense.
The gambling addiction had a lasting impact on his mental health.
“I don’t feel like I’ve fully recovered – you lose relationships and friends,” he said.
He fears that more young people will fall victim to gambling addiction when it is so heavily marketed.
Between April and June last year, TfL launched 49 gambling-related advertising campaigns across its networks, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
TfL says it must consult with stakeholders before any decision is made on the ban.
Former drug addict and Crystal Palace resident Tom Fleming, 33, said there had been a “blurring of the lines” between cryptocurrency and gambling.
TfL services displayed 39,560 crypto advertisements from 13 companies in the six months between April and September 2021, according to the Guardian.
Mr Fleming says he has seen gambling ads and crypto ads on the tube over the past month, playing to the same emotional drivers.
He says the game needs “have to come soon”.
“Commuting is such a normal part of life coming back, and an environment plastered with gambling ads helps normalize the industry,” he said.
Mr Fleming gambled compulsively from the age of 16 until his late twenties, before quitting around 2017.
He told MyLondon the game of football got him to the point where he was “completely isolated”.
He added, “My relationships broke down and the work was not good. I hit rock bottom when my girlfriend broke up with me because of this.
“She came back to collect her things. I only remember she said she was going – I had my phone and was playing while she told me. I had checked mentally. The addiction had taken over so much that I was not there.
He lost around £10,000 gambling and got into credit card debt, and said it created a sense of shame.
“The ads suggest everyone is having a good time. The reality is you’re sitting in the toilet escaping people at work putting £500 on an Aussie Rules football game,” he added.
“I am one of the lucky ones. Hundreds of people lose their lives to addiction every year. My message to Sadiq and TfL is: Stop promoting gambling. You can do better.”
Green Party AM Sian Berry told MyLondon: “TfL banned fast food adverts in 2019, despite the huge fast food lobby. I don’t see why banning gambling adverts takes so long, unless it’s not a priority. It should be.
“TfL’s revenue from gambling adverts probably pales in comparison to the scale of TfL’s budget – and it is more than offset by the harm to Londoners.”
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A TfL spokesperson said: “In relation to the Mayor asking TfL to consider restricting gambling advertising campaigns on our network, there is no set deadline yet for this to happen. changes take place, as TfL needs to ensure it has engaged with a range of stakeholders before any decisions are made.”
They added that investing in cryptocurrency is an “unregulated industry” and ads must contain a disclaimer to indicate this.
TfL now reviews all cryptocurrency advertisements from its agencies before they appear on their services.
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