Against The Odds Education and Awareness is a Social Enterprise that offers educative programmes to the next generation on the dangers of the gambling industry and the further risk of addiction.
Football and gambling have always had a complex relationship. Whilst sports betting has become increasingly popular among football fans, there has been growing concern over the negative impact it can have on the game. Today's world makes gambling simple; betting stores are no longer the entry point to gambling because everything can be accessed instantly with the click of a button.
At the age of 16 and still just a child, Against the Odds founder Aaron Abbot was taken into a betting shop in Coventry for the first time. “I started betting at 16 whilst at College and would visit a local bookmaker every Friday lunchtime to put my EMA into the roulette machine,” he explains.
“Little did I know, how bad things would progress over the next decade - the financial implications, high-interest loans, mental and physical impacts, broken relationships, lies, selling of personal possessions and much more. At no point throughout my teenage and young adult life, was I educated about the gambling sector, hence the birth of Against The Odds.”
In 2022, the gambling industry in the UK had a gross gambling yield of £14.08 billion (The GGY is a key metric used within the gambling industry to refer to the difference between the amount of money received by a given agent and the amount of money paid out by the agent). Statistics state that over 80% of that GGY came from 5% of customers. Over the period of the same year, we would have lost over 400 people to gambling-related suicide in the UK.
Since the birth of technology, gambling has become easily accessible to anybody who wants to try their luck. There are now apps that are downloadable to phones where limits can be established by the user. When Aaron first began to gamble, the gambling industry was very different, requiring him to personally enter the betting shop in order to place a bet. “Back when I started in 2008, it was absurd! You could stake up to £100 per time on the FOBT (Fixed Odd Betting Terminals), you could deposit as much as your credit card would allow and you could ban yourself in one shop and head 30 seconds down the road to the next as if nothing had happened.”
We fast forward to today and Aaron tells me that there has been some reform since his introduction into gambling, with a maximum of £2 on the FOBT machines and no more credit card deposits, however, it’s digital gambling that’s now become an existential problem. “VIP Clubs and free bets are dished out to those who lose the most and we have still not seen the introduction of efficient affordability checks, something very much needed in my opinion," he says.
After 10+ years of gambling, Aaron decided in 2020 to kick his addiction once and for all and explained to me how keeping himself busy made the process easier. “Getting out on long walks initially helped me to fill the time as more often than not boredom was key to having a bet. For me, starting the business has been the main driver, as I approach 2.5 years clean from gambling.”
It's important initiatives like Against the Odds Education that will go on to help many others who want to escape the dangers of the gambling industry. Aaron explains to me that we’ll never see the gambling industry disappear entirely, but we can educate people from a young age and remove the risk of addiction as they grow older. Although the dream is to have a team of experts working across Europe, the short-term goal is to ensure they maximise their work within the professional academies in addition to supporting more deprived communities where store volumes are high. For now, Against the Odds have created a vital project and it’s these initiatives that everyone in the footballing industry needs to get behind.
Find more information about Against the Odds Education here.