Charity doesn’t begin in the betting shop

The Alzheimer’s Society is working with the bookmaker William Hill to help make its betting shops a “safe haven” for people with dementia. This is surely a joke in poor taste? No. The bookmaker has pledged to raise £2 million for the charity over a three-year partnership. It says it’s committed to becoming “the leading dementia-friendly betting and gaming organisation”.

That’s quite some selling-point. According to William Hill’s annual report: “Health and wellbeing is a strong focus across the group. We are helping those with dementia to sustain their normal activities for as long as possible, such as visiting their local betting shop, while minimising at-risk behaviours.”

But gambling isn’t a safe activity for anyone. It leads in many cases to addiction. The idea it could ever be safe for people suffering from dementia, whose grip on reality is tenuous or non-existent, is bizarre.

Claiming that dementia sufferers will maintain their health and wellbeing by being encouraged to gamble is surely exploitation of the vulnerable on stilts. Yet instead of objecting to this, the Alzheimer’s Society is actually party to it. The charity will train William Hill shop staff on how to help punters with dementia. So the staff of a charity devoted to helping people who have lost their minds are going to help such people lose their money.

To read my whole Times column (£), please click here.

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