In her latest Post column, Councillor for Drumchapel Anne McTaggart shares her thoughts on Glasgow's relationship with gambling...

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Many women of a certain age laugh about hitting that time of life when we begin to fear ‘bingo wings.’

However, whilst bingo was viewed as a harmless form of gambling that offered hard-working women a night out with their pals in a predominately female space (whilst male counterparts had their gentlemen’s club known as 'the bookies'), we were always aware of one stricken woman who was tempted to buy another book in the hope that the wheel of fortune would smile on her and she could make ends meet.

Outside of London, Glasgow has more betting shops per head of population than any other UK city or town.

The ripple effect of gambling is devastating for families.

For every gambler that experiences harm, around six other people in their life are negatively affected.

With high street bookmakers tending to focus their attention on our most economically-disadvantaged communities, there has been an over-provision and a disproportionate impact on areas of deprivation that are already struggling with inequalities – creating clusters of ‘environmental bads.’

And now, of course, we have the scourge of online gambling.

Last week, with my colleague Councillor Laura Doherty, we successfully moved a motion on tackling gambling-related harm.

The motion recognised the successful work of the council since 2018 across a number of departments with key partners like the Scottish Public Health Network, the Alliance and others – most importantly, people with lived experience – and the launch of a new whole systems action plan approach to tackling gambling-related harm, recognising it as a significant public health issue.

The UK has the largest number of fully-licensed online gambling operators on the planet, with more than 100.

There are over 33 million active accounts with licensed online gambling platforms in the UK.

Gambling-related harm impacts health, welfare, employment, housing and criminal justice costs.

The Institute for Public Policy Research estimates that Scottish excess fiscal costs incurred by people who are problem gamblers are likely to fall within £20-£60million each year.

When it comes to the harms that gambling can cause – harms from an industry currently valued at £ 14.3 billion – the support for those impacted is not proportionate to the profits of the industry.

Glasgow is one of the few local authorities that has a community fund.

We have prioritised tackling poverty and improving health and wellbeing through this, investing £50m over the next three years to fund recovery communities, mental health groups and others.

That’s a drop in the ocean to what the UK Government has raked in since Tony Blair’s laissez-faire attitude effectively deregulated gambling in 2005 and let global multinationals run amok.

Since then, after refusing to devolve powers to Scotland on gambling after the referendum, the Tories in Westminster have stood by whilst gambling decimates lives, happy to see industry fat cats pay a paltry voluntary levy while communities struggle.

A long-overdue UK White Paper on gambling reform has recently been launched.

Along with Cllr Doherty, I have made clear the need for a statutory gambling operator levy and that equitable funding must come directly to Scotland in order to fund treatment and support our work on addressing gambling harms.

The UK Government needs to stop spinning excuses whilst also spinning the wheel.

Westminster and the gambling industry are the only ones making a fortune from this.