Fruit machine telling the gambler to stop.

Fruit machine telling the gambler to stop.

By Richard Shrubb

Thanks to Austerity cuts to youth clubs and services, the troubling news came out this week that 55,000 11 to 16 year-olds are addicted to gambling. I have another idea for their idle minds – let’s show them who’s really at fault and let them fight the real problem.

The Guardian reported, the Gambling Commission audit “also found that 70,000 youngsters were at risk and that 450,000 children bet regularly, the equivalent of one in seven children aged 11 to 16.”

What’s Austerity got to do with gambling?

Kids need something to do and people to guide them as they grow up. Schools can’t do everything, even as their budgets are being slashed to the point they can’t even teach kids the National Curriculum let alone nourish the kids’ minds with extracurricular activities.

Traditionally, and especially in smaller rural communities, there have been youth services and clubs supported by local government to give kids something to do. I have a saying “The Devil has ideas for idle minds’ and kids will cause trouble if bored.”

In London lately cuts to youth services have been directly linked to the spate of kids shooting and stabbing each other as they ‘find something to do’ by hanging out in gangs.

The news that kids are getting hooked on fixed odds betting machines is currently being counterattacked by the government as ‘pubs allowing kids to use them’. Yup, blame the publican for a kid being so bored s/he starts pumping £1 coins into a machine with flashing lights that can give them a 1000% pocket money increase that week!

The fact is publicans with few exceptions are very tight on the law as getting a reputation for getting youngsters pissed is a great way to lose your alcohol license and therefore livelihood – the excuse that was broadcast on BBC Radio news on Tuesday that they’re at fault holds no water. Gambling machines, while their owners corrupting the government like a crack whore, are at least as toughly regulated as alcohol in the UK.

Here at Feed the Birds we want government regulation – as opposed to bans – on many drugs and things people do in their spare time. Why? A drug dealer’s lifestyle relies on shifting as many goods as possible, while the government regulating a dealer so they know they will lose everything should they breach the rules will make the world a safer place. Yes, we know that bookies rely on getting as many bets shifted as possible and in actively corrupting the government are no better than back street smack dealers.

Austerity getting worse

Teenagers white water rafting

White water rafting is more fun than gambling.

Guess what? More kids are at risk of getting in trouble from doing ‘adult’ things. Why? Austerity hasn’t fully tightened its belt yet, and not enough vulnerable people have been strangled out of vital services. Don’t believe Theresa May – Austerity is no more over than her fantasies of being a half decent PM. Have a look at this news – published in September, Children & Young People Now reported Tory-run Somerset County Council “is considering cutting funding for young people and families in need of early help by £2.5m in a bid to balance its books.” Two more years where things will get steadily worse for kids and young carers while rich Tories take tax cuts in the vaunted hope some of that extra cash trickles down their legs to starving paupers.

Let’s give kids something to do

Kids are not the most politicised of groups. As they try to grapple with an understanding of why things are, so we should explain that the biggest why is a government of millionaires in thrall to billionaires who steal from the poor to give to the rich. Teaching a kid to share with those without, and that collectively we are responsible for everyone’s welfare takes years of careful upbringing. The happiest day of my life will be the day that my daughter phones me up from the police cells having been arrested for lawful protest. As parents, we should all start thinking along those lines as without civil unrest, society will suffer.

See you at the barricades!

Child gambling usage quadruples in the UK while Bet365's boss pays herself £265 million.

Screenshot from the BBC news website. Some correlation per-chance?


Richard Shrubb

Richard is a marijuana, water sports and electric vehicles writer based in Dorchester, Dorset. Living in Prince Charles model housing estate, Poundbury, he is an avowed republican, community and Labour Party activist. Visit his website at www.richardshrubb.com for more about what he does.

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