Mike Rowbottom ©insidethegames

Responsible drinking. Responsible gambling. Responsible smoking.

Scrub the last one, it is no longer applicable.

The other two, though, are still going concerns.

There are circumstances when responsible drinking becomes a reality. Drink-driving laws impose that discipline on most people - clear rules that require strict limits. Although, of course, there is nothing to stop you cracking open a few cans once you get home.

But as far as gambling is concerned, there is no version of a drink-driving law.

What is a responsible gambler? Have you ever met one? I may have done - a kindly maths tutor who helped two of my children realise that mastering algebra could actually be, to use one of betting's favoured words, fun.

Our occasional visitor left an agreeable aroma of sandalwood and mint. 

He also fascinated us with his secret life as an occasional, maybe even annual, gambler in Las Vegas where he maintained he had worked out a formula which meant he at least broke even, and usually did better than that - up to a cut-off point at which he always, well, cut off.

The Venetian Casino in Las Vegas - a place where it may be possible to make money, assuming you have the right formula  ©Getty Images
The Venetian Casino in Las Vegas - a place where it may be possible to make money, assuming you have the right formula ©Getty Images

When the FUN stops STOP.    

I have always thought this message, fastidiously displayed in bookmakers' windows to make it crystal clear that the business of betting is essentially about having a nice time, to be entirely fatuous. 

Forgive me if I have misunderstood the betting process, but the fun tends to stop when you lose. There may be some who cannot prevent a huge belly laugh from breaking out when the last leg of their accumulator goes down. But in general, such a turn of events dampens the mood.

So the message should really be: "When the winning stops, stop". But that is not a message most bookies would be comfortable displaying.

The window dressing, then, is just window dressing. Not that it matters, for people will always bet, and most will always lose.

The questions and the debate on this issue centres on the idea of "responsible".

In recent days I have been following the fortunes of sailors in the 49er and 49erFX World Championships at Porto via the hugely informative site www.49er.org.  

Prominently displayed in the standard information beneath each day's report on the Championships was an "Against All Odds" section pointing out that, "for the first time ever", sporting fans could wager on the outcome of the 49er Championship, adding: "If you think you know who's got that special sauce, you can put your money where your mouth is via these links".

After which there are links for the men's 49er odds and betting, women's FX odds and betting, and global sites.

At the bottom of each page there is this disclaimer: "Betting is provided by a completely independent online broker and their affiliates, and we are providing publicly available information about betting solely for informational purposes. Competitors, race officials, and support staff are prohibited from betting on their events by World Sailing Regulation 37, and the international 49er and FX classes neither participates in, promotes, or supports online betting in any way".

Sailing in the 49er class at the Kiel Regatta. Betting on the results of the World Championships was possible for the first time this year ©Getty Images
Sailing in the 49er class at the Kiel Regatta. Betting on the results of the World Championships was possible for the first time this year ©Getty Images

Surely some tacking going on here? The word "conflicted" comes to mind.

Nobody's making waves, although there was a response on the site's Facebook page describing the latest innovation as "disappointing".

The waves are way larger in football, however, in a week when British political party Labour announced its intention to ban clubs from signing shirt sponsorship deals with betting companies - obviously once it returns to power. What are the odds against that right now, I wonder?

Sorry. Couldn't help myself. Call it the human condition. Call it a cheap shot.

There will certainly be many people who regard this stance as evidence of the nanny-state. They will argue, with much justice, that even though the team they support has carried the emblem of a betting company for numerous seasons, it has never prompted them to bet.

Good for them. They are not the problem. The problem lies with those who are perhaps being led to believe, perhaps from a young age, that gambling is as much a part of football as drinking. Or even football, at a push. Perhaps being led to believe that keeping your nerve and then cashing out on a bet, pint left barely half drunk in front of you, is akin to baling out of a blazing plane as it spirals to the ground.

Labour's deputy leader, Tom Watson, insists: "Football has to play its part in tackling Britain's hidden epidemic of gambling addiction.

"Shirt sponsorship sends out a message that football clubs don't take problem gambling among their own fans seriously enough. It puts gambling brands in front of fans of all ages, not just at matches but on broadcasts and highlights packages on both commercial television and the BBC."

Nine of the 20 Premier League teams, including West Ham, Newcastle and Everton, have shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies which are reckoned to be worth a combined £47.3 million ($61.9 million/€51.6 million) for this season.

It used to be Dagenham Motors. Now it is betway on the front of the West Ham shirt. But for how much longer? ©Getty Images
It used to be Dagenham Motors. Now it is betway on the front of the West Ham shirt. But for how much longer? ©Getty Images

A news piece in The Guardian cites recent research conducted at Goldsmiths, University of London, indicating that gambling logos or branding appeared on the screen for between 70 per cent and 89 per cent of the time during live matches or highlights on the BBC's Match of the Day.

"So what?" you may say. But can you be sure that even you will not be influenced by such unrelenting subliminal messaging? And even if you can, is there not a weight of responsibility to regulate or mitigate its potentially harmful effects on other less indomitable souls than yourself?

If sailing looks a tad conflicted in this respect, it is as nothing compared to the seismic stresses currently coming to bear on The Beautiful Game.

Last month the Football Association announced it was terminating a sponsorship contract with Ladbrokes worth around £4 million ($5.2 million/€4.3 million) a year.

The FA rules already prohibit youth teams from displaying products considered "detrimental to the welfare, health or general interests of young persons", which includes gambling.

For Labour to point out that there is a disconnect with a policy that continues to ensure those same youths view an almost continuous prompt to "ave it", as a particular West Ham fan of very longstanding might put it, whenever they watch football on TV, is surely not unreasonable. 

Responsible, even.