I’ll Wager it’s a Mugs Game

Only a few years ago one could go into my favourite village pub to meet up with ones neighbours and friends. Perhaps have a cigar with ones drink, put a sneaky bet on the horses with the landlord and watch the rugby, football or the grand prix on bar TV. Today things are vastly different, and not only in our pubs and restaurants. Advertising regulations have changed. No longer do we see a racing car with cigarette ads all over your favourite driver’s car. Yet we still have major tournaments sponsored by the drinks industry, despite accepted evidence of the effects that alcohol has on society. Probably. As for gambling, well, those advertisements are seemingly everywhere, even during the commercial break before the watershed during the Wembley FA Cup semi final between the two Manchester rivals. Why? Well, they’re allowed to, that’s why. It’s not the fault of the drinks or gambling industries, it’s their job to get us to drink and bet ourselves stupid, despite their nod to safeguard our health and well-being by the use of the word ‘responsible’. Today, one can still sit in the corner of the bar placing bets on our mobile phone as the smokers stand out in the rain. My objection is the placement of gambling or drinks advertising at times when anyone under the age of 18 will undoubtedly be watching. My six year old grandson is a fan of Manchester United, and is being bombarded with words like ‘odds’ ‘tote’ ‘each way’ or ‘bonus’ during the commercial break. “What does that mean granddad?” Quite frankly, I’d rather field questions about the cost of the new United shirt than to try and circumvent the ins and outs of the gambling industry. As a boy, walking along Occupation Road in Corby heading for school, I’d pass a Turf Accountant ‘shop’ there and back, and wondered, in much the same way as my grandson might today, what a Turf Accountant does? It took me years to discover that the aforementioned turf referred to the ground on which horses would race and the accountant was the person who would take ones money and place the bet. I believe in the word moderation especially when it comes to the so called ‘vices’. My parents had always warned us about the pitfalls of alcohol, nicotine and gambling against the backdrop of yet another commercial on TV espousing the benefits that may be derived from having a cigar as we sip a martini or two in a Monte Carl Casino. Yet it seems that with the demise of smoking ads a lucrative legal hole appeared which is being adequately filled by the drinks and gambling giants. Well, here’s a prediction (not a bet). Within the next five to ten years these lucrative revenue streams for the commercial TV stations will dry up as a result of refreshed gambling and alcohol legislation. Then perhaps I can watch the football without having to analyse something as simple as an advertisement.

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