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A little bit about the Neuroliberation campaign

The Neuroliberation campaign originally started in 2011 (under a different name) after its founder Benjamin Thacker suffered a gambling addiction which started in 2009.

Ben was lucky (or not so lucky) to win £500 playing roulette on the fixed odds betting terminals at a Ladbrokes betting shop in Brighton.  He started playing with less than £5 and quickly found himself up to £500 in less than two hours.

This happened on a rainy evening in 2009. Ben was homeless at the time and had walked inside Ladbrokes to keep out of the rain. He intended to spend only a short amount of time inside the betting shop until he had dried-off but instead found himself continuously winning on the fixed odds betting terminals until he was up to £500 and the shop was due to close.

This immediately led to a very serious addiction to the fixed odds betting terminals and he found himself spending many hours in betting shops on a daily basis.
Aside from having his own problems through his addiction, what shocked him the most was how much he saw that the exact same problem was happening to a lot of other people.

Addictions to fixed odds betting terminals are becoming a big problem within the UK.  Various media reports have dubbed them the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling.
A big part of the problem which is currently being reported in the media is that betting shops do not need to apply for planning permission. Since a change in the law (Gambling act 2005) betting shops have opened in clusters, dominating town centres and high streets.

William hill alone has at least 2,350 betting shops in the UK. Only the Post Office has more retail premises on the UK high street.
Ladbrokes has over 2,100 betting shops in the UK.

The big players in the gambling industry such as William Hill and Ladbrokes claim in their written submissions to the government that there are an ‘insignificant proportion’ of problem gamblers in the UK.  This is not the case however as a new style of social culture in betting shops is starting to manifest.

Both Ladbrokes and William Hill (they aren’t the only ones) claim that they are successful in protecting children and the vulnerable from problem gambling. This too is a false claim as betting shop staff on a daily basis witness people losing hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds in a matter of minutes.
They have also started to advertise posters that are very appealing to young children, cartoons etc.

A lot more young people (and also women) are becoming problem gamblers now since the concentration of betting shops, the introduction of fixed odds betting terminals and the change of law in regard to advertising.

Before the gambling act 2005, betting shops were by law forbidden to advertise on the outside of their shop or place sandwich-boards in the street.  Like any other major corporate industry, the gambling industry has its eyes set on expansion and long term investment and the real facts about the current problem with fixed odds betting terminals and gambling addictions in the UK are being swept under the carpet.

A major factor as to why the gambling industry is permitted to launch an all-out assault on the British public so easily is because several MP’S in government involved with the gambling act have many close ties with the gambling industry. For instance MP Steve Donoghue is an adviser to the department of culture, media and sport but also has ties with Ladbrokes, various racecourses and he is also a gambling industry consultant.

Many MP’s involved with the gambling act have received £1,000’s worth of hospitality from the gambling industry as well as receiving a membership badge for the national racecourse association in 2003.
 Most of the research done in the UK on problem gambling is one way or another gambling industry-sponsored.
In 2010 research conducted by a review of gambling law review committee found that the only public money being spent on researching problem gambling in the UK that year was a program funded by the NHS for £25,000. After just a couple of months the NHS decided to abandon the project.

However, there are some  MP’s that are trying to raise awareness of the current problem with betting shops and fixed odds betting terminals, including MP for Tottenham David Lammy and MP for Peckham Rowenna Davis.

Since 2005 a lot has changed in regards to media advertising for the gambling industry. As a nation we have now found ourselves in the position where quite often not thirty minutes pass us by without a bingo or casino advert appearing on our internet pages and television screens.

As well as petitioning to the government and raising awareness publicly about the problem with the concentration of betting shops, another aim of the campaign is to provide information to problem gamblers that might not have otherwise come across this information.

Like many addictions, the brain chemical Dopamine has a very important part to play in problem gambling.
What is so dangerous about playing roulette on fixed odds betting terminals is that anyone that has a surprising win on them can very quickly become addicted.
It doesn’t matter how strong minded a person thinks they are, they are still only human. When somebody experiences a surprising win playing roulette they will experience a deep setting association with pleasurable dopaminergic brain activity and gambling.

As dopamine acts as a natural ‘driver’ for us to do things in everyday life that bring us fulfilment and reward (i.e. Work, cook, exercise) a person with a gambling addiction in most cases will fall victim to cognitive rewiring.  (see for more information)
Excessive distribution of dopamine to the brain has been linked with schizophrenia and cognitive impairments with symptoms similar to ADHD and Bi-polar disorder.

Whilst betting shops with fixed odds betting terminals are taking over our high streets and town centres, public funding for the very people who will go onto suffer from the individual and social effects of gambling is being cut.
The effects of letting the gambling industry continue to operate and advertise in which the way they currently do, whilst sugar-coating statistics, could potentially cause depression within communities that could last generations.

Please join the Neuroliberation campaign to say enough is enough, we want positive places in our communities, not places that blight the soul of an area and create even more social problems.