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Gambling is an addiction that demands more attention

The gambling industry contributes over £3 billion to the UK economy and employs more than 100,000 people, but at its core lies the huge issue of addiction. Each year the UK Gambling Commission publishes a report on the industry and this year it shows how the industry is thriving. But at what cost?

Gambling addiction is often referred to as a ‘silent addiction’ because there are no outward physical signs and those suffering with this addiction can hide it from their loved ones, who often only find out when the problem is spiralling. It is also commonly misunderstood and denied addiction, with people not comprehending how debilitating it can be for the addicted. Many people end up in huge debts and some resort to crime to feed their habits. Data released for the first time last year shows more than 100 people were admitted to hospital as their addictions became so severe.

Ease of access is proving very troublesome, with over two million people in the UK registered as either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction

The internet has transformed the betting industry – gone are the days of having to walk to the betting shop to put money on your favourite horse or the winning goal scorer, now it’s a simple click on your phone and you’ve staked money. Online gambling has been on the charge for a number of years, becoming the biggest gambling sector in the UK, and its no surprise as the next generation of betters come along who are much more computer savvy than their predecessors.

But this ease of access is proving very troublesome, with over two million people in the UK registered as either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction. These people are no longer using their own money but reports show that up to 20% of deposits with some betting companies are made using credit cards. In response to this, a spokesperson for the Gambling commission said: “We will consider prohibiting or restricting the use of credit cards”, a move which the Labour party has previously said it would back.

The introduction of GAMSTOP in 2017, however, showed a change in direction in gambling regulation. The self-exclusion scheme, that was designed in line with the Gambling Commission’s aims, is a free service that lets you put controls in place to restrict your activity.  This can be done through banning yourself from specific websites or placing a monthly deposit limit.

It is now a requirement that any company with a gambling license is signed up to GAMSTOP to provide a wide-reaching help for problem gamblers. However, a Radio 5 Live investigation demonstrated the ease in which it is to get around these restrictions and continue placing bets, even when you are supposedly ‘banned’.

But first, gambling needs to be recognised as an addiction in everyday society

Online gambling is not the only trouble that the government is worried about. Another method of intervention to help problem gamblers is reducing the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) from £100 to £2. FOBTs are common place in pubs, betting shops, bowling alleys, almost every public space has some, making these machines seem harmless and the norm. However, the high-staking nature of the FOBTs, where customers can lose hundreds of pounds in one sitting, fuels the fire of addiction and is often cited by those who have been treated for gambling addictions as their main form of gambling. It is then no surprise why the House of Commons is very focussed on this form of gambling.

To demonstrate their commitment to addressing the issue, with these terminals that are said to be the most harmful betting tools, the government is bringing this cut forward from the proposed start date of October 2019 to April of this year. Hopefully this will be a tangible method of reducing the losses incurred by gamblers on FOBTs, a necessary step that needs to be taken if the problem of gambling addiction is to be properly addressed.

Access to specialist addiction treatment is another essential step to overcome this affliction. Funding for therapeutic interventions and other forms of therapy are necessary to finally end this serious issue. But first, gambling needs to be recognised as an addiction in everyday society. Help for gambling addicts is available if needed, and you can contact UKAT to speak to someone and get advice on accessing treatment and support regarding gambling addictions.

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