Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, it’s our way of extending to you an invitation to come to Wales and meet a group of individuals who know you and your work very well. At the Living Room Cardiff, we’ve led the way for the last five years in dealing with problem gambling. We have researched and studied the extent of the problem and its many complexities and without a doubt, advertising has emerged as one of the most serious causes of harm.
The advert that you have appeared in for Bet365.com has been mentioned in counselling sessions time and again by clients as a powerful impulse factor in their betting, and it’s not hard to see why. It is a work of dark genius, and you have a pivotal role at the heart of it. Why do you think the producers of the advert chose you? Looking at your film and TV career from movies like Sexy Beast to the Sweeney, you have consistently portrayed images of hard working class masculinity, unafraid to take risks, refusing to play by the rules. You have become synonymous with a particular set of values and ideas which young male gamblers find appealing and attractive, and as an older man famed for playing tough streetwise roles, you present yourself as a compelling role model. Younger men, who the advert is surely aimed at, are more likely to see you as worldly and will uncritically take on board the suggestions that you are making throughout the short advert.
As you probably know, the trick with gambling advertising is to help the gambler see themselves as the guy with the inside knowledge who can play the odds and somehow win. The reality, of course, is that the addictive world of online gambling is set up to benefit the gambling companies at the expense of the addict. But encouraging gambling’s victims to see themselves as Paul Newman in the Sting is vital. Why? Because often they are the most disempowered and vulnerable people in society, whose only opportunity to ‘win’ at all is through a game of chance. During the advert, you tap your forehead, and remind the viewer that they can start betting even before the advert ends. With that one finger tap you communicate a thousand words to the viewer, and you do it deliberately.
Be smart, you say. Be clever, take the bet and do it now — seize the opportunity and win. You’ve unconsciously suggested to the audience that they are actively thinking about what they are doing (whereas addiction requires its victims not to engage in conscious thought at all). When this carefully scripted and choreographed video was filmed, did you know exactly what every line you spoke and every hand gesture was designed to do? It seems unlikely that a man of your experience and intelligence didn’t see this advert for what it actually was.
As an actor who has played tough guys throughout your career, we would like to invite you to do something that requires courage and strength. We would like you to come to the Living Room Cardiff and listen to the stories of gambling addicts, and hear how your advert has affected their lives. We will treat you with the same kindness and compassion that we show to everyone who comes through our door, and we hope you will become part of our campaign for dramatic changes to the law to protect young and vulnerable people from gambling advertising. This letter is sent to you with the greatest of respect and in the hope that you will work with us to become part of the solution to this invidious illness.
Wynford Ellis Owen
Specialist counselling consultant
Living Room Cardiff