From the archive: a nation of gamblers, 1972 | Life and style


The Observer Magazine summed up the gambler’s fallacy – the belief that random past events have an effect on future outcomes – in its cover headline of 10 September 1972, the first part of an investigation into Britain’s gambling mania: ‘Tomorrow I’ll Win It All Back’.

‘Nine Britons out of 10 now gamble,’ revealed Des Wilson and Joe Steeples, ‘and those who don’t are frowningly referred to by sociologists as “deviant oddities”… the law has given up any attempt to ban it and is now satisfied if it can keep it under control.

‘This year we in Britain are staking more than £2.1bn on the turn of a card, the fate of a horse, or the result of a football match – more than we invest in education or in hospitals and 2.5 times what we spend on bread and cereals.’

An astonishing 9 million people went to greyhound races. ‘An evening at the dogs can be fun,’ it was argued. ‘When the grandstand lights dim and the gaily dressed dogs are led on to the track, it is like a form of theatre.’

Gamblers Anonymous said there was evidence that ‘some gamblers subconsciously want to lose to punish themselves’. They even quoted Freud: ‘The fluttering movements of a card dealer’s hands, the thrust and withdrawal motions of the croupier’s rake, and the shaking of the dice box can all be identified with the sublimations of copulation or masturbation.’

These days, gambling has largely moved online and become ever more niche in what one can bet on, but one thing remains constant: ‘The gambling empires are being built upon the one inescapable truth in a business full of myths and theories: the profit in gambling is for the promoter, not the punter.’





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Johny Watshon

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Life is like running cycle right! I am a news editor at TIMES. Collecting News is my passion. Because my visitors have right to know the truth and perfectly.

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