Campaigners call for gambling problems to be treated as health issue

Gambling should be classed as a public health concern and treated the same way as smoking and drinking alcohol, campaigners claim. Opponents argue that betting companies should prove that their products are safe before launch.

A doctor

Campaigners are calling for gambling to officially be classed as a public health concern. © Pexels.

Pressure groups are lobbying the government to start classifying gambling as a public health concern. The UK gambling regulator has previously investigated this possibility and in a research paper that was published in 2009, a link to other health issues is made.

The report states that while gambling has not traditionally been seen as a public health matter (Korn, 2000; Griffiths, 2004) the health and social costs can be huge. On an individual level, a compulsive gambler can become irritable, face relationship problems, behavioural and psychological problems can develop.

Figures contained in the report show that a problem gambler is also much more likely to engage in other addictive traits.

A male gambler who has issues with addiction is 17% more likely to be a heavy drinker, consuming over 35 units per week, compared to 11% for men who don’t have a gambling issue.

They are also much more likely to smoke heavily (over 20 a day) with 33% compared to 20% of non-problem gamblers. They are more likely to be depressed (47% v 20%) and become diagnosed with a mental health issue.

In February last year, the Gambling Commission sent a briefing to all Local Authorities and local Public Health providers. The communication set out the Commission’s stance on why gambling-related harm should be considered as a public health issue and offered help and advice on how this could be implemented on a local level. A key theme of the recommendations was a change in the way we interact with the problem gambler, often vilified rather than helped.

Gambling with Lives group leading the charge

One of the pressure groups who wish to see attitudes toward gambling problems change is Gambling with Lives. The campaign group was set up by families and friends of young men who had tragically taken their own lives due to gambling issues. Suicide is the leading cause of death in young males in the UK and Gambling with Lives believe that between 250 and 650 of these deaths can be directly connected to gambling issues. This, the campaign points out, is equal to one each and every working day.

While many campaign groups have often purposely obscure goals, Gambling with Lives’ reason for being is in no doubt and their focus is clear.

Young men are particularly vulnerable to the often incessant nature of gambling adverts. The industry has been well aware of the public backlash over this, stating they were “very mindful of public concerns” and will be introducing a “whistle to whistle” ban on sporting events.

Although the proposals have not yet been ratified by the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG), the blackout is expected to be in place in time for the 2019-20 Premier League season.

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