As part of training some of our volunteer advisers have been looking at problem gambling. They want to learn the causes and impacts on the people affected, their families and friends. It’s all part of our support for Gamble Aware and the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.
At Citizens Advice we can help with issues such as debt or family relationships that often shadow problem gambling.
The online training, coordinated by colleagues Jumana and Hollie, produced many learning points. Here is a selection:
Because gambling can be seen as a normal social activity – playing poker, buying lottery tickets – problems can stay hidden for longer.
The brain stores memories of euphoria which drive the gambler to the next session with higher stakes and more risk. Indeed, the bigger the risk, the greater the euphoria reward. But the trouble is the ‘high’ comes not from winning but the act of risk-taking itself.
In the UK we heard that some 600,000 people may be correctly described as ‘pathological gamblers’. Their gambling has a compulsive aspect. However it’s estimated that for each problem gambler between 6 and 10 other people are affected.
It seems that where it can the industry likes to use the term ‘gaming’ as an alternative to ‘gambling’. It sees the term as less negative.
Several colleagues were surprised that the line between online games** and gambling had become quite blurred. Some games appear designed to draw players into spending money in ways that are to all intents and purposes gambling.
They also found it remarkable that the gambling industry makes a surplus of some £14 billion a year*, approximately half generated online.
On 8 December the government published plans to review current gambling legislation and call for evidence. Read more. The Gambling Commission welcomed the plans and commitment to strengthen protections against problem gambling. Read more.
* Gross gambling yield: the amount retained by gambling operators after the payment of winnings but before deduction of operation costs (excludes the national lottery).
** In October we helped promote a survey on attitudes to Loot Boxes carried out by Royal Society of Health and Gambling Health Alliance. Read more