Traders' online betting on rise say gambling helplines

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Gambling helplines say they have seen a marked increase in calls from traders, compulsively gambling at work. Although many institutions forbid employees to place spread bets on financial instruments, the practice is still rife, say insiders.

'Everyone does it,' says one trader. 'Everyone knows that their phone calls are being recorded, but no one cares. I know someone who lost 25,000 on the Ryder Cup. There are more compulsive gamblers in the City than in any other walk of life.'

Paul Bellringer, of gambling charity Gamcare, says that spread betting possesses all the criteria of a very addictive activity: it allows bets to be placed very rapidly it is interactive and encourages absorption because the bet can be changed, and it allows punters to chase their losses.

Most importantly, he says that spread betting is particularly addictive because it allows for magnified profits, but equally carries a danger of magnified losses. 'I have heard stories of people losing five-figure sums, which is very easy to do,' says Bellringer.

Banks, however, seem unconcerned. Most declined to comment. Of spread betting traders, one head of HR at a leading bank said: 'They're just doing their job. I'm sure they have a good idea of opportunity and risk.'