Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Gambling and Television Advertising

Often enough on night shift, waiting for my time on the well, one would be watching a bit of television while onboard the Norwegian rigs, after midnight and into the wee small hours of the morning.  During that time, I did notice a lot of adverts for gambling websites.  Some would be in Norwegian but the vast majority would be in English.

Since becoming suddenly unbusy, following the serious downturn in the oil industry, I have been watching rather more television at home.  It is only now that I have become aware of the amount of gambling advertising on UK television.  It is scary when it finally sinks in how much of it is on our screens.

I am not a sportsman.  I enjoy sport on my own terms.  Rather fond of golf and American football, can take the occasional game of cricket, rugby and, a regular watcher of football: once every four years during the World Cup.  Would I put money on the any of the outcomes?  Nope.  The struggle is enough, it is all in the moment for me.  My worst nightmare would be trapped in a room full of sports pundits, endlessly discussing and replaying the finer points of how Team A undermined the offside trap set by Team B, before muffing the finish anyhow.

For some, many in fact, it is the outcome and the buildup towards it.  The involvement, the joy and the desolation made all the sharper by financial interest.  The not knowing, the thrill, the edge and, literally, having a stake in the outcome.  Putting money where one's mouth is.  Takes bravery that.  Takes nerve.  It is all-too-often taken advantage of by the bookmakers.  People know this and when you win, it must feel like David's victory over Goliath.

Unlike real combat though, even when Goliath wins, he lets you get up again and load another stone in the slingshot.  Come on little man.  Come and try again.  Almost had me last time.  Next time might be your time.  Sometimes it is.  Whoever wins, both of you are able to get up again ready for the next time.  The next thrill.  The next big one.

With modern technology however, there is no wait.  One can bet inside games: the next scorer, the next substitution and goodness knows what else.  This is one I am not willing to research: having gambling websites on one's browsing history reduces one's credit rating.  Outside sport, there is not even the chance element.  Pseudo-slot machines and one-arm bandits dominate online sites, doubtless far more sophisticated than the mechanical machines I played while underage in Vegas in 1982.   Those who gamble will know far more than me as to the latest wheeze to part punters from their e-cash.  For the whole setup of modern trade means that cash is long gone from most transactions.   It is certain that if gamblers had to had over hard cash with every click, they would quit on a losing streak far sooner.  The whole process of online gambling just focuses on the thrill: the money doesn't even exist until, well, until it is gone.

It's okay that people gamble: for many it is just a fun way of blowing fifty quid in a evening.  One can do the same for a meal, a show, at the bar, whatever floats the boat.  The amount of advertising on our screens suggest that there is a lot more money in it than that for the companies involved.  The cost of television advertising may be cheaper than before but it is still expensive.  Companies are very smart and they would not pay out for Foxy's costume or Mr Green's suit if it has not paid for itself many times over.

Here is not the place to go into the damage done to either sport at every level, nor the lives derailed and wrecked by excessive gambling.  Frankly, this is my first foray into the subject and, I readily admit that I have a lot to learn.  I am glad however that the super-casinos never made it to the United Kingdom.  I saw their effect in Adelaide when I was there some five years back.  I loved Australia with all my heart.  Fantastic place and I loved the straight-talking people.  The obvious fly in the ointment was the pokies.  "What the hell is a pokie?" I thought to myself.   They were advertised outside every bar in Queensland.  When I made it down to Adelaide though, I did not realise at first that the magnificent three-storey brick building that dominates the centre of town was the old railway station, or so I was told.  Even less did I realise that the whole massive edifice was turned into a massive casino: right in the heart of the city.  For the record, pokies are automated poker machines fitted in pretty much every place that it is legal.

The UK advertising market was deregulated in 2007.  By 2013, there was a 600% increase in the amount of television advertising since then.  I have no idea what the number is now but I suspect it is no less; probably a lot more.

I want to see advertising regulations for gambling reintroduced into the UK.  I am sorry for the advertisers: I realise that a whole industry with people's livelihoods at state.  I am not at all apologetic to the gambling industry though: you know you have been turning a quick buck, again and again and again, at people's expense and you will continue to do so.  The United Kingdom does not have to encourage you to do so.

It is no good the industry saying "Please Gamble Responsibly": the subtext being if you don't, it is not our fault we will take all your money.  What about let's advertise responsibly?   People's lives are more important.

Monday, 15 February 2016

On Ugandan Affairs*

The story of Crispin Lamont, 40 of Perth, who is being held under the charge of rape in India, is a  different twist on an experience not unknown in the oilfield.

According to the Daily Record, Lamont is being charged after his former girlfriend of five months alleges that she only agreed to having sex after he promised to marry her.  In India this is statutory rape as sex occurred until false pretences.  The Record also suggests that it is a form of female control as women are expected to be virgins until wedlock.
Full story here http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/scots-fitness-guru-arrested-alleged-7371283#Jztiz7PicvMKZKxP.97

The two similar incidents related below occurred in Nigeria, where both men decided to engage in long term relationships with local women rather than indulge in the random pleasures of "late night shopping".

The first came to light when the gentleman concerned complained to his operations manager that he had missed his flight after being held by Nigerian police at the airport.  He further complained that he had been forced to hand over a substantial sum of money in order to effect his departure.
Outraged, the operations manager contacted his counterpart in Nigeria and ordered an investigation be mounted.
The investigation succeeded in uncovering several additional facts.  The man was indeed held by police in the manner stated and had to pay before he was allowed to leave.  The reason for this treatment though was a complaint by the man's former girlfriend.  She was under the impression that they would be married.  When it became clear that they were not to be, she complained to the police that she had been cheated and that the man is attempting to skip the country without settling the bill for services rendered.  Apparently the police were unmoved by his declarations that they had been in love but the relationship had died naturally.

 At least the woman had acted with some discretion, for the incident would not have come to light if it had not been for the man's stupidity.  Not so in the next case: the lady was out for revenge.  After been disabused of the idea of matrimony by her longterm Italian boyfriend, she turns up to a large social gathering, where the guest of honour is one of the company's vice presidents.  Accompanied by two policemen and in front of workers and wives, she very loudly presents the bill for her favours.  She had obviously kept a diary for she was able to date and itemise each act, giving also the price incurred.

Beyond what is in the press, I have no further details on the case of Mr Lamont and his former partner.  His case is infinitely more serious, as the charge of rape brings far more than embarrassment and a financial hit.  Suffice to say, one should be aware of the potential cultural  pitfalls before engaging in affairs d'amour.

*"Discussing Uganda" In 1973, the satirical magazine Private Eye reported that journalist Mary Kenny had been disturbed in the arms of a former cabinet minister of President Obote of Uganda during a party. Variations of "Ugandan discussions" or "discussing Uganda" - the term is believed to have been coined by the poet James Fenton - were subsequently used by the Eye to describe any illicit encounter, and the phrase soon became part of common usage.