Theresa May, the British Prime Minister has announced that part of a £20.5 billion injection of cash into the UK’s strapped National Health Service (NHS) will partly be used to help treat problem gamblers, in a move that’s set to please problem gambling charities.
Last year, the government announced that it would increase the amount of funding given to the NHS for mental health services – due to a sharp rise in demand – which would enable an additional 750,000 people to get help. This figure is expected to grow to as high as 2 million by 2029.
At the time of writing, there is only one dedicated treatment center in the UK that deals with problem gambling – and, based in London, it’s hardly suitable for most of those living in the country.
The first visible sign of these improvements can be seen this April in Leeds, when a second clinic is set to open. The NHS Northern Gambling Clinic will be funded by GambleAware – a popular UK-based gambling charity – and the center will be run by the region’s NHS trust, along with a private company called GamCare.
Once the clinic is up and running, it plans to open satellite outreach units, which will enable it to provide help to even more people.
While the opening of this second clinic is welcome news, it’s worth remembering that two clinics for the entire country is by no means nearly enough. Recent research suggests that the UK is home to over 400,000 gambling addicts, and as many as 2 million problem gamblers. A further 540,000 people are ‘deemed to be at risk’.
The UK’s gambling epidemic has largely been linked to the abundance of gambling opportunities for young people, primarily through the high street bookmakers. Almost all towns and cities across the UK have a handful of bookmakers operating, and the main source of income for these shops are the FOBT’s – fixed odds betting terminals – which have caused huge controversy in recent years.
These machines have been deemed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling, enabling punters to wager as much as £100 every 30-seconds, and users of the machines are estimated to have an addiction rate of 11.5%, compared with just 1.4% of those who don’t use the machines.
Indeed, the UK government recently announced that it would be slashing the maximum stakes on the machines to just £2 – a move that has infuriated industry operators. Still, an ongoing controversy exists in the UK, as the government originally agreed to halt bringing in the changes until October 2019 after bowing down to industry pressure. This has since been reversed after public outcry, and the changes are set to com in soon.
This is all happening in a time that’s seeing big changes in the gambling industry in the UK, both on and offline. The United Kingdom’s Gambling Commission – the government-funded body in charge of regulating gambling – has been seen to be taking a heavy-handed approach with operators who fail to carry out sufficient responsible gambling and money-laundering checks, with companies such as 888 and LeoVegas have been fined record sums, as the commission continues its clamp down.
Responsible gambling is looking to be the key focus of the commision in 2019, and it’s likely we’ll continue to see operators facing fines and even having their licenses revoked for illegal or unethical practices.
New Clinics Are Welcomed By Gambling Charities
The rise of problem gambling in the UK has reached such alarming levels that the NHS reported that in 2017, the number of gambling addicts admitted to hospital beds had more than doubled since the previous year. GamCare stated that calls to its helpline had rise by 30% over the last four years, to around 30,000 calls in 2018 – and Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour Party stated that 2 people take their own lives every single day in the UK because their gambling was out of control.
Clearly, it’s a growing problem in the country, and more resources and facilities to help those affected by gambling are clearly needed, and welcomed.