UK Might Have To Treat Gambling Addiction As A Public Health Emergency
UK Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson is sounding the alarm bells over what he calls a “hidden epidemic” in the UK. Watson has gone on record to state that gambling addiction is a life-threatening public health issue that requires far more research and specialist treatment that is currently being offered.
The number of gambling addicts in the country continues to rise, with England having the worst problem with almost 400,000 problem gamblers recorded. A further two million people across England, Scotland and Wales are at risk of developing gambling addiction, according to figures from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
The issue of problem gambling also poses a threat to the UK economy. In a study conducted by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in 2016, it’s been revealed that gambling addiction consumes a huge chunk of the country’s resources. The cost of gambling addiction to the UK’s overall economy could reach £1.2 billion each year, with hospital inpatient services related to problem gambling exhausting the largest amount of up to £610 million.
Professor Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University Gambling said that gambling can be considered a valid form of leisure or entertainment only when it is contained and controlled responsibly.
UK Laws “Unfit” for Digital Age
Tom Watson is hitting out at the lack of regulation in relation to online gambling operators and says that current laws are unfit for the digital generation. Labour Party’s gambling policies include setting stricter limits on stakes for online bettors and limiting the frequency at which games can be played.
Watson also called for more stringent regulation surrounding sporting advertisements, highlighting the surge in gambling ads bombarding the UK screens. Watson said some new gambling forms are often unregulated and highly addictive. One example of this is “in-play” betting, which allows gamblers to bet on a sports event while it’s still running, via gambling apps and websites.
Problem Gambling Should Be Treated Seriously
Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, founder and director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic in Kensington, said the negative effects of problem gambling should be treated seriously. According to the charity Gambling with Lives, up to 11% of UK suicides committed each year point to gambling addiction.
A specialist clinic catering to gambling addicts is currently operating in the country and is overseen by the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. It provides various services, such as psychological assessments, lifestyle training and cognitive behaviour therapies. A second clinic will open in Yorkshire later this year to deal with this growing problem.