In a soccer-crazed England, gambling is one of the few legally available thrills for a nation that is bored, isolated and stuck at home. 

It's the British answer to day trading in the U.S. stock market, which has boomed throughout the pandemic and is expected to rise again as new round to stimulus checks arrive.

With an efficiency that seems both grim and arbitrary, Covid-19 has struck down millions but left others unscathed and, in some cases, richer than ever.

The Gordon Moody Association, a British charity offering residential treatment for gambling addicts, said over the summer that the number of calls from gamblers who said they felt suicidal had recently quadrupled.

A House of Lords report found last year that 60 percent of the industry's profits came from 5% of its customers - namely problem gamblers, or gamblers at risk of developing a problem.

''It's very much like being in a casino,'' said Jake Thomas, a former gambling industry executive who chaperoned a reporter, over the phone, through the website during the Stoke-Watford.

''Why wait 90 minutes to find out if your team is going to win? Why not get a little buzz betting on the next corner kick?''

The company has said it takes action on 100,000 events throughout the year, on sports and races around the world - greyhounds in New Zealand, women's table tennis in Ukraine, golf in Dubai. 

There's even a section on politics. [George Clooney is currently 100 to 1 to win the American presidency in 2024.]

If no live events appeal, virtual events beckon. There are video-generated simulations of tennis matches; games of football, soccer, basketball and cricket; and on and on. One afternoon, bicycle races in a virtual velodrome were running every three minutes, each lasting about a minute.

LONDON : The success of bet365 stems in large parts from the way it pampers bettors.

It offers, for instance, refunds to anyone who bets on a soccer team to win in a soccer team that ends without any goals. [Nil-Nil ties enrage bettors] And in certain circumstances, the company will pay out winners before a game is over. 

this is not exactly altruism.
Antigambling activists contend that all such stratagems are just part of the problem, especially during the pandemic.

''The lockdowns have accelerated the growth of online gambling and increased the use of more addictive gambling products,'' said Matt Zarb-Cousin, who runs Clean Up Gambling, a nonprofit. ''This means an entire generation is now more vulnerable to gambling addiction.''

Without new regulations, separating soccer and gambling will never happen, Mr. Zarb-Cousin and others say, because the two are essentially fused.

About 70 percent of the teams in the top two English leagues earn millions by wearing betting company logos on their uniforms. Even the few soccer team owners who refuse gambling money, on principle, end up taking it by just competing.

Mark Palios, owner of the Tranmere Rovers in Birkenhead , has spoken out against gambling operators as a malign force in the game.

He was appalled two seasons ago when bet365 wound up with broadcasting rights to some games. The Football Association, which markets those rights, shares revenue with teams in the league.

''And bet365 decided that if you wanted to watch games you needed to go the company's website and sign up for an account,'' Mr. Palios said.

''The company was nakedly leveraging its market power to compel to gamble. I thought that was obscene.''

The house always wins. Especially now.

The World Students Society thanks author David Segal.


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