24 October 2016

Government to Consider New Measures to Tackle Gambling Addiction

With addiction to substances causing so many health and social problems, it is easy to forget that other types of addictions can have devastating implications to those affected. Take a gambling addiction, for example. Although there are no outwardly physical signs of the problem, this is an illness with far-reaching consequences for not only the individual and his/her family members but also for the wider community.

A gambling addiction is often referred to as a silent addiction because those affected can hide what they are doing from their loved ones. It is often only when their world is about to come crashing down that the people closest to them realise there is a problem. Many gambling addicts will accumulate massive debts as they take out personal loans and credit cards to fund their habit. When they run out of ways to get cash, some will resort to crimes such as theft or fraud.

Review on Gambling Industry

Due to the devastating consequences of a gambling addiction for both those directly and indirectly affected, campaigners have been calling for a review into the industry. As well as online gambling, there is the issue of fixed odds betting terminals in almost every betting shop around the country. Both forms of gambling have made it easier for people to become hooked, and the Government is now preparing to review the industry in a bid to tackle the problem.

Campaigners are calling for a clampdown, and it has been suggested that new measures could be introduced to protect the most vulnerable in society from developing gambling addictions. This could include a ban on television advertising during the day, or a limit on the maximum spin allowed on betting machines.

It is believed that the review will be carried out by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, with advertising and prizes examined and new rules implemented. With tighter regulations and higher taxes already imposed on the gambling industry, it is likely that there will be fierce opposition to any more changes.

Restrictions

Campaigners have long been urging successive governments to consider implementing a reduced maximum spin on fixed odds betting terminals. Currently, the maximum spin limit is set at £100 per spin, and with machines capable of spinning three times in one minute, significant amounts of money can be lost over a short period.

These betting machines are a huge source of income for betting companies and contribute a huge amount to HMRC in tax revenues. It is expected that the gambling industry would be fiercely opposed to a reduction in the maximum spin limit.

There may also be a restriction on when gambling adverts can appear on television. It is often the case that gambling adverts are shown during sporting events such as football matches, especially to target young men. Nevertheless, it is believed that the government review may change the laws around gambling adverts.

New Measures

Several new measures have already been put in place by the gambling industry, as per The Association of British Bookmakers. A spokesperson said, “These include giving gaming machine players the ability to set a limit on the amount of money they spend or time they play for, no advertising of gaming machines, the first cross-operator national self-exclusion scheme, and the new £50 stake limits.”

Nonetheless, the industry has warned the Government that further restrictions could impact the amount of money that is generated in taxes.

Profits have already taken a hit after the introduction of ‘point of consumption tax’ by the Government in December 2014. This tax meant that a fifteen per cent tax was charged on gambling regardless of where the bet was placed.

Tackling Gambling Addiction

Nevertheless, unless tighter restrictions are placed on the gambling industry, it is likely that more people will be affected by gambling addiction. The temptation to set up online gambling accounts in the hope of winning big can be too great for some individuals. Advertisements offering free bets for new account holders lure people in, and some can get hooked instantly.

Once addiction develops, it can be difficult to break the cycle. Those affected are always trying to convince themselves that they are going to stop, but are unable to resist once the impulse to gamble arises.

As with almost every other addiction, a gambling addiction will continue to get worse without treatment. However, with professional help and support, it is an illness that can be overcome. Counselling and therapy can assist affected individuals to get to the cause of their compulsive behaviour and can help them to resist the lure of gambling going forward.

If you are worried that you may have a gambling addiction, or if you are concerned for a loved one, contact us here at UKAT today for advice.

Source: Ministers consider tough new rules for gambling (Financial Times)

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