Many of the ads remind us to gamble responsibly – when the fun stops, they tell us, stop. I’m not very sure that problem gambling works that way. But it seems that it’s enough to make gambling companies tick a few ESG boxes. Flutter Entertainment has a 1.6 per cent weighting in the FTSE4Good 50 index. Entain was admitted to the broader FTSE4Good index based on ESG criteria that would appear to be a baseline for any normal business – human rights, health and safety and anti-corruption among them. As one fund management group justifies it: “There is a strong argument for not avoiding problematic industries, like tobacco or gambling… [by engaging] we can encourage gambling companies to go above and beyond their legal obligations in addressing problem gambling and to use responsible marketing.”
But are they? According to a YouGov survey, there are 1.4m problem gamblers in the UK and a further 3.6m people negatively affected by them. Gambling companies are increasingly offering tools to help would-be gamblers control their habit, but I wonder how many customers actually use them. Looking at the collective profits of the gambling industry – read that another way as the losses to the public – not many. The salary of Britain’s highest-paid woman, Bet365’s Denise Coates, is said to be more than the entire amount spent by the industry on dealing with gambling’s damage.