Whether betting on horses, football matches or poker… gambling is big business. But when people get an irresistible taste for gambling, it becomes an addiction – and sadly, young people with gambling problems don’t know where to find help.
Professor David Forrest from the University of Salford says, “Problem gambling is heavily concentrated in 16 to 24-year-olds. Overwhelmingly it’s a male thing, it’s a young person’s thing.”
In 2013, according to the National Centre for Social Research, in England and Scotland 83,000 (73,321 male and 10,083 female) 16-24 year-olds were classed as ‘problem gamblers’.
GamCare, an independent national gambling charity, part-funded by the gambling industry, gives free advice and support by telephone; referring some clients on to its UK-wide network of local counselling centres, where treatment is also free.
Over the last three years, there has been a substantial rise in calls by young people to its National Gambling Helpline, but only 3,000 calls from 18 to 24-year-olds in 2013-14 which is a low figure, given that 83,000 are problem gamblers.
The charities reckon that people don’t seek help because they do not know about the options available or opportunities for help.
“It’s often a secret addiction, It’s not visible like other problems… people don’t want others to know they have this problem,” said Dirk Hansen, Chief Executive of GamCare. “Probably only a small number get specialist help; probably around 10%.”
Other groups, like Rethink Gambling, offer support but there is only one dedicated NHS clinic in the UK: the National Problem Gambling Clinic in London, offering psychological treatment and behavioural therapy. People can self-refer, or their GP or probation officer can refer them.
Of 2,177 people referred there, over 34% were under 30. On arrival at the clinic, their average debt is over £10,000 but overall, they’ve each lost a total of £60,000 on gambling.
Many people feel ashamed and embarrassed to admit to gambling problems – let alone to ask for help. And there is an issue with knowing where to go for help. Unlike drugs and alcohol addictions, services are invisible. As are the dangers and the effects of gambling itself. While schools and public health services widely warn of the dangers of drink and drugs, people are rarely taught about gambling addiction at school.
The Gambling Commission says that all organisations “must have measures in place to minimise any harm caused by gambling. These measures include having information readily available to customers on how to gamble responsibly and where they can get help if they think they have a problem.”
The Association of British Bookmakers, representing betting shops, is planning a responsible gambling campaign for January 2015.
Peter Craske, their spokesman, says: “Staff in shops are trained to interact and will attempt to advise anyone who appears to be exhibiting problem gambling behaviour. Online customers can set deposit limits to manage their accounts, and all bookmakers will offer self-exclusion – the opportunity to ‘ban’ yourself from shops or websites.”
And yet, we might ask, if betting shops are given the responsibility to safeguard people from gambling addiction – whilst making money from gambling – how will that work?
Founder, Arthur Coaching
Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.