Gambling addiction is a genuine hot topic at the moment, with the government looking for ways that it can help the most vulnerable cope with such issues. It has led to the likes of the gambling industry volunteering to pay an additional levy on its profits over the next five years, primarily in order to avoid such a situation being imposed on it in a timescale that wouldn’t suit them.
The general mood around the issue of gambling is one that is dominating certain sections of political discourse, with the Labour Party’s Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, suggestion that a gambling ombudsman would help tackle the issues currently facing the industry.
The criticisms being levelled at the gambling industry as a whole are unlikely to be lessened by news that the NHS is planning to open a gambling clinic specifically aimed at helping children and young people. The National Problem Gambling Clinic will be aimed at those with addiction problems between the ages of 13 and 25, offering them help and support to deal with the issues that they’re faced with in their every day lives as a result of getting involved in gambling.
It’s part of a long-term plan being put in place by the NHS that will see as many as 14 different clinics being opened around the United Kingdom. It comes on the back of concerted campaigns by various groups for the government to be more serious in tackling the gambling industry.
Why The Clinic Is Needed
In October of 2018 the BBC produced a report on how teenagers were being bombarded by gambling adverts. One such teenager was a girl called Catherine who pointed out that the risks associated with gambling were not advertised in the same way as the likes of smoking, with the Gambling Commission suggesting that as many as 25,000 people aged between 11 and 16 could be described as ‘problem gamblers’.
Jack Ritchie started gambling when he was 17-years-old, spending his dinner money at the bookmakers and quickly developing a problem. He took his own life when he was 24.
Jack’s parents founded a charity called Gambling with Lives, which aimed to educated youngsters about the issues around betting in the hope that others will realise the seriousness of the situation. They have welcomed the decision to open a new clinic specifically aimed at helping young people, with Jack’s mum declaring it to be ‘wonderful’ news. She believed that Jack may well not have taken his own life if he’d have received a referral to the clinic, but also declared that links to primary care should be improved, including better training for GPs.
Gambling ‘Doesn’t Discriminate’
The founder and director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, Henrietta Bowden-Jones, made the point that the clinic’s existence is necessary because gambling addiction isn’t a disorder that discriminates between the old and the young.
Given that the only clinic open in London until now that specialises in gambling was for people aged 16 or over, the work that the NPGC will do could be vital. Bowden-Jones pointed out that gambling addiction ‘wrecks lives, pulls families into debt and can leave people feeling suicidal’.
It was a sentiment backed up by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock. He spoke of first-hand evidence of gambling addiction’s ‘devastating impact’ and of the need to do as much as possible to help any affected by ensuring that they can get help and support. Speaking with the BBC Mr. Hancock said, “We know that too many young people face their lives being blighted by problem gambling – so these new clinics will also look at what more can be done to help them”.
Education About Dangers Of Gambling Is ‘Badly Needed’
The Director of Development for GamCare, Mike Kenwood, spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live about the need to ensure that young people are more readily educated about the inherent dangers of gambling.
He pointed out that Personal, Social, Health and Economic lessons at school help to teach children about the seriousness of drugs, safe sex and alcohol but that gambling was ‘missing’ from the broader agenda of lessons that are aimed at teaching young people about the realities of life. The representative of the charity that provides support and advice to problem gamblers said that adding gambling to the list of topics explored in PSHE lessons was ‘badly needed’.
The clinic is scheduled to open later in the year and will be based in London, but it is part of a wider expansion being put in place by the National Health Service across England. There are as many as 14 clinics being pencilled for opening around the country, but they will be predominantly aimed at adults with gambling problems.
A clinic is scheduled to open in Leeds in the summer, with another following in Manchester and one Sunderland also planned. This fits in with the Gambling Commission’s declaration that it is ‘essential’ that people have access to treatment for gambling problems and support that is easily available.
Companies Should Be Taxed To Pay For Treatment
The Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, used the announcement of the launch of the new service to attack the gambling industry and said that it should be made to pay for the treatment and for the new clinics that the NHS is launching.
He pointed to the links between those that have gambling problems and mental health issues as a point worth drawing attention to, speaking of too many ‘lives are lost and families destroyed’ by gambling addiction. Stevens was quick to be critical of the ‘fraction’ that is spent by the gambling industry on helping those that have difficulties with addiction when they’re willing to ‘splash £1.5 billion on marketing and advertising’.
The new clinics will be able to accept referrals from around the country, being staffed by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. Stevens has called for ‘a levy to fund evidence-based NHS treatment, research and education’, with the gambling industry currently paying a voluntary levy of 0.1% of their profits every year, which amounts to around £10 million.
The Gambling Commission, meanwhile, believes that a mandatory level would increase that to closer to £70 million. The gambling industry as suggested that the levy be increase to 1% over the next five years, but critics likes Stevens believe that that doesn’t go far enough considering the need to help families ‘deal with the direct consequences of addiction’.