Charity queries bookie's altruism

Sporting Index, the spread-betting specialist, has launched a scheme giving around 1p per bet to British charities in the wake of last week's publication of the Gambling Bill.

But closer inspection of the scheme's beneficiaries has led the Salvation Army to query the altruism of the move. Although Great Ormond Street Hospital and Sports Aid will receive some of the proceeds, so will the Responsibility in Gambling Trust.

The trust was set up by the betting industry earlier this year in anticipation of the Gambling Bill. The Bill contains a power to force gambling operators to contribute towards the treatment and education of gambling addicts, and has set the trust a fundraising target of £3m per year.

"Yet again, it is an attempt to pretend that gambling organisations are about something other than gambling," said Jonathan Lomax, the Salvation Army's public affairs officer. "It's not the most altruistic position from which to give, and there is a fair bit of enlightened self-interest in giving money to the trust."

Lomax estimates there are 300,000 problem gamblers. This means the £3m target only works out at £10 a head, which he said wasn't very much when compared to gamblers' likely losses.

"If any company wants to give money to charity, that is its decision, but it is worth teasing out the distinction between doing that and giving money to the trust. We would be very concerned if the move was being used as a marketing tactic," he added.

Sporting Index asserts that its charitable scheme challenges the negative profile gambling operators have earned in the press lately. "This shows that not all betting firms are like a snaggle-toothed behemoth from the seventh circle of hell," said Warren Murphy, director of Sporting Index.

He said the total annual donation would amount to "tens of thousands of pounds". Sporting Index has always taken a responsible attitude to its betting policies, he added. It offers 'limited loss' bets and claims that it always performs a thorough age and identity check before allowing anybody to become a member.

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