Paul Merson’s BBC documentary to place gambling addiction in the public spotlight

The subject of problem gambling returns to UK primetime terrestrial TV screens, as BBC One will air tonight its “Paul Merson: Football, Gambling & Me” (9 pm) programme. 

The documentary will recount the former footballer’s latest relapse into gambling addiction, triggered by the anxieties of COVID-19’s national lockdown, in which Merson has admitted to losing his entire earnings and life savings.

Industry leadership and CSR teams should be aware of Merson’s documentary that has been selected as ‘pick-of-day’ by the Daily Mail, The Sun and Mirror newspapers.    

Press briefings for the show have outlined that Merson comes face-to-face with his compulsive behaviours, and further examines how “new technology is making the gambling industry more insidious with the ability to gather information about customers”.

Merson’s battle with gambling and alcohol addiction have been well-documented during his career as a footballer and TV pundit. However, reflecting on his experience, Merson confessed that problem gambling carries a social stigma in which victims are deemed as untrustworthy or bad people.  

Last month, GamCare’s National Helpline registered a ‘sudden influx’ in calls following Merson’s interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB) Show, in which he admitted to his latest relapse.

Bringing industry reforms into the public eye, the BBC’s documentary is aired as UK gambling awaits the critical judgement of the government’s generational review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

Critical of the sector, this summer Channel 4 broadcast its ‘Football’s Gambling Addiction documentary by former Scottish Conservative Minister Ruth Davidson.

Davidson lambasted  UK gambling’s existing laws, which she deemed had led to a ‘parasite taking over its host’ and called for broadcasters and football clubs to curb the ‘saturation of betting advertising’ that serves as an ‘inescapable trigger for former and recovering addicts’

DCMS maintains that it will deliver its gambling judgement by the end of the year, as ministers are dutifully revising 13,000 responses with regards to UK gambling’s technical provisions, conduct, licensing, affordability, consumer advocacy, advertising, social responsibility and corporate governance duties.

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