The Royal College of Psychiatrists defines problem gambling as: “gambling that disrupts or damages personal, family or recreational pursuits.” In other words people whose gambling negatively affects their everyday life are problem gamblers. Of course this means that the lives of other people connected with the problem gambler can also be affected – like friends, family and work colleagues for example. These people are sometimes referred to as “affected others”.
Citizens Advice helps people with their problems and its staff and advisers are well placed to spot the causes underlying those problems. Most people gamble responsibly and manage their spending within their means. Those who don’t or can’t may end up at their local CAB with
-a debt, or
-an issue at work because they have been spending time they should have been working feeding a gambling habit, or
-a problem with a relationship caused by the gambler hiding the real reason behind changes in his or her behaviour.
Last year, Citizens Advice carried out a survey based on just under 850 self confessed problem gamblers and over 680 affected others. The recently published report – Out of Luck – found:
It also found the harm created by gambling includes detrimental effect on health, increased debt, housing and employment issues, family and relationship problems and social exclusion. While it recognises that gambling companies contribute towards support services, Citizens Advice feels that the voluntary agreement currently in place is not sufficient. It is calling on the government to ensure firms contribute more to addressing the issues caused by problem gambling by enforcing section 123 of the Gambling Act, which gives the Secretary of State the power to set how much gambling companies must pay.
Citizens Advice is using the evidence published in the report to respond to the government consultation on gambling that is looking at the social responsibility of betting firms and the use of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) the gambling machines found in betting shops. These have been the subject of heated debate between some politicians who believe the maximum stake should be reduced from £100 to £2 and the gambling industry who claim this would lead to 21,000 job losses. Gambling in Waverley (including the use of FOBTs) will be dealt with in more detail in this column next week.
Meanwhile, for more information and advice on how to deal with gambling debt (or on debt in general), Benefits, Work, Consumer Issues, Relationships, Housing, Law and Rights, Education, Discrimination, Tax and Healthcare you can: