How touching that our local branch of Betfred display posters with the sage counsel "Gamble responsibly". Responsible gambling is now the watchword. We are not here to gloat while you gamble away your last penny and run up debts that mean you will soon be sleeping behind a row of giant wheelie bins in the street. No! We are here to give you innocent entertainment and enhance your excitement about sport.
If you are a worn-out teacher who is on strike for one day, in protest at ever-increasing workloads, frozen salaries, eroded pensions, being forced to teach a rubbish curriculum and being threatened with knives in the language lab, don't spend your one day off gambling your entire earnings on the outcome of the Football World Cup. Don't wager your wife, your children or your pet tortoise. You might later regret it - or the tortoise might regret it. Sit down and do your annual accounts and work out exactly how much you can afford to lose in the betting shop per year, and memorize this figure. It won't be a large one.
If you are a cheesed-off nurse who is fed up about disguised pay cuts, falling nurse/patient ratios, working in an environment of simultaneous stinginess and ludicrous waste, don't gamble away your last hairpin, or the rusty bicycle you ride to work. Find a depressed patient and gamble them away instead. Call it assisted suicide.
If you are an MP, an MEP or a government minister, you have had an 11% pay rise this year so you may think it's time for a splurge, but wait! The message is still, gamble responsibly. Never go straight to the betting shop when you are tipsy on subsidized champagne from the House of Commons bar or enjoying a snort of coke. Leave that for dull debates on the green benches. Wait till your head is clear and you get a nice long vacation - six weeks should do it - and never stake more than a few hundred quid at a time. If you lose you may have to claim it back on one of your expense allowances and claims are published. And whatever you do, if you are a Conservative or a LibDem , do NOT gamble on being re-elected in the next General Election. That is not responsible gambling, it is sheer foolhardiness.
GamCare is a registered charity that provides confidential telephone support and counseling to anybody who may be affected by problem gambling. You can contact GamCare on 0845 6000 133 (local rate from the UK) or you can visit www.gamcare.org.uk.
If you are concerned that gambling may have taken over your or someone else's life then ask yourself the following questions:
Have others ever criticised your gambling?
Have you ever lied to cover up the amount of money or time you have gambled?
Do arguments, frustrations or disappointments make you want to gamble?
Do you gamble alone for long periods?
Do you stay away from work or university to gamble?
Do you gamble to escape from a boring or unhappy life?
Are you reluctant to spend 'gambling money' on anything else?
Have you lost interest in your family, friends or pastimes due to gambling?
After losing, do you feel you must try and win back your losses as soon as possible?
When gambling and you run out of money, do you feel lost and in despair, and need to gamble again as soon as possible?
Do you gamble until your last penny is gone?
Have you lied, stolen or borrowed just to get money to gamble or to pay gambling debts?
Do you feel depressed or suicidal because of your gambling?
The more questions you answer yes to, the more likely you are to have a serious gambling problem. If you wish to speak to somebody about this, you can contact the GamCare confidential helpline on 0845 6000 133 or visit www.gamcare.org.uk for further advice.
Lenten Meditations: Saturday 25 March
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