Image of slot machines in a casino

Problem Gambling

Is gambling damaging your family?
We may not be aware of it, but gambling is all around us, from friends and family having a flutter on the Grand National, to buying weekly Lottery tickets or feeding coins into the one-arm bandit in the pub. As with drugs or alcohol, that’s fine for most people, but some become addicted, and can end in debt, borrowing or stealing to fund their habit. The big issue at the moment is ‘FOBT’s, becoming ever-more available in high-street betting shops.

The trouble with FOBTs
FOBTs (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals) are touch-screen roulette machines in betting shops, that allow you to play casino style games. In April 2019 the maximum stake on FOBTs will be reduced from £100 to £2, this is a long overdue change and is the result of extensive campaigning and the resignation of one government minister.

Getting them young
Gam Care estimates that 127,500 people under 24 in the UK have a gambling problem, and says that betting online and on smartphones has made gambling easier and more attractive to young people. The organisation reports that 60% of those coming to ask for help are aged 18 to 35. See the BBC Newsbeat report from October 2013. Experts report that even children can develop an unhealthy interest in betting or chance games. Factors linked with problem gambling in young people include: depression, delinquent behaviour and crime, anxiety, low self esteem and personality disorders.

New research in 2019 has revealed that smartphone gambling apps are even more addictive than FOBTs with the chance to lose money being “just a tap away”. The journal European Addiction Research has found that because we check our phones many times during the day, the opportunity for mobile gamblers to bet – and lose money – is massively increased. If possible try and remove all gambling apps from your phone and keep temptation at bay.

The Big Deal
The Big Deal, funded by the Responsible Gaming Trust, allows gamblers under 25 to share their experiences.

Do women gamble?
It’s true that fewer women have serious gambling habits, but their problems are just as serious. The National Problem Gambling Clinic has established a specific treatment service for female problem gamblers. It says: ‘Estimates suggest that around 20% of problem gamblers are female; however, women are often under-represented in traditional treatment services. As a result we have designed a specific package of treatment that can be selected by women who need help with problem gambling. The treatment comprises some one-to-one sessions followed by group treatment.’

Is the Responsible Gambling Trust a responsible organisation?
The Responsible Gaming Trust is a charity set up in April 2012 to deal with the issue of problem gambling, but it is linked to the gaming industry; it is funded by a levy on the industry and its chairman Neil Goulden is also head of the Association of British Bookmakers.

It funds education, prevention and treatment services and commissions research to broaden public understanding of gambling-related harm. The stated aim is to stop people getting into difficulties with their gambling, and ensure that those that do develop problems receive fast and effective treatment and support. The RGT has also commissioned research into FOBTs.

However, some campaigners feel the Government should back an independent body, more likely to examine and criticise the industry’s practices.

Who are Gambling Watch UK?
This is an organisation that is independent of Government and the gambling industry that exists to question the present policy of support for the expansion of gambling in the UK and to propose alternative policies. Its members believe that the expansion of gambling is harmful from a public health perspective and is inconsistent with support for positive cultural values. However, it does not campaign for the total prohibition of gambling. Read more.

Gambling Watch is critical of the RGT and, recently hit out about a piece written by its boss, Neil Goulden, about gaming machines. Read more.

Gambling on the brain
Scientists at the University of Cambridge have identified the part of brain responsible for gambling addiction. Future treatments could seek to reduce hyperactivity in the insula by using drugs or psychological techniques. See report in The Independent.

Who can help?

  • Gamblers Anonymous
    Gamblers meet to share their experiences and help one another through using a 12-step programme. Read more.
  • Gam-Anon
    Gam-Anon is a fellowship of husbands, wives, relatives or close friends who have been affected by problem gambling. Their meetings are often on the same night as GA, but in different rooms and the groups do not share information. Read More
  • Gam Care National Helpline
    Offers confidential advice and emotional support from a trained advisor. Lines are open from 8am to midnight, seven days a week.
    0808 8020 133 Funded by Responsible Gambling Trust. Also see the Gam Care website
  • Addiction Recovery Agency
    Registered charity formed in 1987 to help people with alcohol, drug and gambling addiction. Works closely with the Criminal Justice services to ensure that treatment is available to people who have been led into crime by addiction.
  • National Problem Gambling Clinic
    Run by the Central and North West London NHS Trust. Aims to improve existing treatment and develop new models of psychological therapies for gamblers. Read More
  • Gambling Concern
    A charity that works with the National Problem Gambling Clinic. It states that an average patient arrives £15,000 in debt, 51% have seen their marriage/relationship break down and 39% of our patients have a further mental illness.
  • Help Guide
    A US information site with lots of good advice. Read more
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists
    The RCP website gives lots of advice about spotting problems and methods of breaking the gambling habit, and signposts helpful contacts. Read more
  • Gordon Moody Association
    Registered charity with more than 40 years experience of providing residential support and treatment for people who are severely addicted to gambling. The organisation has two treatment centres, one in the West Midlands and the other on the Kent/London borders. Read more