While many people enjoy the odd flutter without any negative consequences, a gambling addiction is a serious issue, affecting not only the gambler, but also those around them.
Gambling addicts often hide the extent of their problem and it can be challenging to confront someone you think may be affected.
A gambling addiction can affect many aspects of life, including:
- Personal relationships and family life
- Work and finances
- Physical and mental health
As well as causing stress and anxiety, a gambling addiction can cause those affected to lose their job or home. If it leads to theft, it can result in a prison sentence. In severe cases, addicts might see taking their own life as the only way out; however, there are many organisations that can offer help and support.
What sort of gambling exists and where is it accessed?
Gambling can cover a wide range of activities including:
- Betting on the outcome of sporting activities eg football matches, horse races
- Betting on other occurrences eg snow on Christmas Day
- Playing coin-operated (slot) machines
- Playing card games, roulette etc
- Buying National Lottery tickets and scratchcards
The National Lottery was first drawn in the UK in 1994 and has since been joined by scratchcards, Thunderball and Euromillions. Tickets can be bought at approved sites or online.
In the past, most gambling was carried out at specific premises, such as betting shops, casinos or pubs/arcades with slot machines.
However, the introduction of online options has made it much quicker and easier for people to gamble. As a result, operators have been encouraged to introduce measures to discourage problem gamblers, from text messages to those exhibiting risky behaviour, to suspending accounts.
Who can be affected by a gambling addiction?
Problem gamblers can potentially be any age and from any social background.
However, there is increasing concern that the way gambling is marketed, in particular around football matches, has normalised the idea of gambling to children. Gambling Commission figures from November 2018 show that:
- One in eight 11-16 year olds follow gambling companies on social media
- 450,000 spend their own money on gambling
- 55,000 children are problem gamblers
As a result, GambleAware has launched the #CanWeHaveOurBallBack initiative, including an online video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8lXRAeHYDg&feature=youtu.be
How do you know if you have a problem?
The NHS website has a questionnaire that can help you think about whether you have a problem with gambling:
It includes questions such as: Have you borrowed money or sold anything to get money to gamble? and: Has your gambling caused you any health problems, including feelings of stress or anxiety?
What should you do if you think you have a problem?
There are several places you can go to get help (see below). You should also consider:
- Paying bills before you gamble
- Spending more time with people who don’t gamble
- Avoid thinking of gambling as a route into making money
- Avoid online gambling on credit and only take as much you can afford to lose with you when you visit gambling premises
- Getting professional help, whether advice, counselling, support groups or psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
What if you know someone who has a problem with gambling?
It can be very difficult confronting someone with a gambling addiction. They may deny it or become angry with you. Honesty is the best policy and you should tell them how their actions are affecting both their own life and that of those around them.
If you think someone close to you may be a compulsive gambler, there is a series of questions you can look at on the GamAnon website: http://gamanon.org.uk/?page_id=32
What is being done to reduce problem gambling?
The independent charity, GambleAware, funds research, education and treatment services in Great Britain.
The charity’s aims are to: “broaden public understanding of gambling-related harms, in particular as a public health issue; advance the cause of harm-prevention so as to help build resilience, in particular in relation to the young and those most vulnerable to gambling-related harms; and help those who do develop gambling-related harms get the support that they need quickly and effectively.”
The charity is guided by the National Responsible Gambling Strategy, whose board provides independent advice to the Government via the Gambling Commission.
For more information and help
If you think you have a problem or know someone who might need help or support, you can contact:
The National Gambling Helpline: 0808 8020 133; https://www.begambleaware.org/
The National Debt Line: 0808 808 4000; https://www.nationaldebtline.org/
Gamblers Anonymous: https://www.gamblersanonymous.org.uk/
The Gordon Moody Association (residential centres): 01384 241 292; https://www.gordonmoody.org.uk/
Gambling Therapy: https://www.gamblingtherapy.org/en
Support for those affected by the behaviour of gambling addicts can be found at:
GamCare: 0808 8020 133; https://www.gamcare.org.uk/