Health and Wellbeing

Council takes action to increase the visibility of dangers of problem gambling

Posted on: 1 November 2018

A Spotlight Review into the issue of problem gambling has been commended and endorsed by Devon County Council’s Cabinet this month, who will be incorporating recommendations from the report over the coming months, starting this week, to mark the national Responsible Gambling Week.

The review was carried out by the Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee and the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee and was led by Cllr Alistair Dewhirst, Devon County Councillor for Ipplepen and The Kerswells, following concerns from councillors on problem gambling.

Whilst the Council has no jurisdiction over licensing or direct provision of gambling establishments, the spotlight review looked at the impact problem gambling has on health inequalities and the most vulnerable in our society.  It sought to understand the underlying causes of, and challenges associated with, problem gambling; the ways in which the Council and its partners could work together to prevent problem gamblers reaching crisis point; and ways to support people with gambling additions.

Insight from the review found that while 26% of problem drinkers receive treatment, only around 2% of problem gamblers are able to access treatment.

Of particular concern were the growth in Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) (a 65% increase in 8 years), and the increase in TV advertising and sponsorship by the gambling industry.

Cllr Alistair Dewhirst

Cllr Dewhirst said: “Our spotlight review was attended by an interesting group of people who came along from across the South West.  The recommendations aren’t onerous, but they are really important.  This is something that’s going on everywhere in our society and sadly it’s being promoted so much.

“We switch on the TV and see our favourite programmes are sponsored by betting companies, it’s insidious across the whole of our society.

“I hope that we can help, not just within the Council, but within our districts, police, universities, and Citizens’ Advice Bureaux, to raise the issues around problem gambling and the consequences that happen when people become problem gamblers.

“Whilst we welcome the announcement that the government have proposed legislation to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2, we are impatient to see this implemented.”

Recommendations from the review and endorsed by Cabinet were for a better understanding of the correlation between problem gambling and people with other complex needs through a needs assessment; training for frontline staff and employers to recognise the risks associated with problem gambling, and work with coroners to ensure problem gambling is included as a risk factor in suicide audits.

The Council’s Cabinet has also undertaken to write to government to request that credit cards are not used for online gambling, and to regulate TV gambling industry advertising and sponsorship.

Cllr Roger Croad, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said:

“This was a really insightful and enlightening piece of work from the scrutiny committee, which highlights the often-hidden impact of problem gambling on our wider society, and particularly among people who are already suffering from poor mental health, other addictions and social isolation.

Cllr Roger Croad

Cllr Roger Croad

“Unfortunately, we live in a world where adverts for gambling come up all the time, especially during sporting events, and we welcome the new legislation in place by the Gambling Commission to regulate campaigns that appeal to children or that glamorise gambling, but more needs to be done.

“We would also welcome legislation to reduce the maximum stake at Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, from £100 to £2, in line with other gaming machines; and to prohibit the use of credit cards to gamble online.

“We also need to work with our partners in other frontline services to ensure we’re capturing the impact of problem gambling in our diagnosis and treatment of people who are self-harming and have other mental health issues.”

The Spotlight Review heard from a member of the review group who went on record to share his personal experience of being a problem gambler. Councillor Ian Hall shared his personal experience of having been a problem gambler many years ago. Councillor Hall told the Spotlight Review that he used to play innocuous games with a financial element whilst at school which led to a more serious addiction and a significant deterioration in his mental health as a result. The Spotlight Review heard how Cllr Hall recovered with his own determination and support from this friends and family. Cllr Hall also shared his experience of knowing peers with similar problems and serious consequences.

Anyone who has concerns that they or someone they know may have problems with gambling can contact the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133 or visit the Gamcare website.

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