The anticipation and the buzz that surround gambling make it all too easy for a gambling addiction to develop. The severity of the addiction is often disguised as the affected individual does not typically display any physical symptoms, which makes it extremely challenging for loved ones to recognise the addiction until it is too late. This can have devastating effects on the individual but also his/her friends and family too.
Approximately 20 million people in the UK place bets regularly. Collectively, these punters lost an astronomical £3.6 billion last year. There are a few legal requirements around betting: anyone who wishes to gamble must be aged eighteen or over, and all bets must be placed with a licensed operator. The increasing popularity of online gambling in the UK is evident as the country’s gaming regulator handed out a total of 749 licenses up to March 2016.
However, it is not just online betting that is an issue, as many individuals still physically take time out of their day to go to the bookies to place bets.
One man who knows the devastating effects of a gambling addiction is Ian Bartlett from Nottingham. Ian’s first encounter with gambling was when he was nine-years-old and his father introducing it to him. This would prove to have devastating consequences, as Ian would go on to develop a serious gambling addiction. He recalls that he placed his fist bet when he was just sixteen-years-old.
Over the years, Ian has lost approximately £100,000, which has obviously had devastating consequences in his life. Ian said, “Betting has impacted me personally; it impacted me in ways which I lost my freedom, and it impacted me psychologically. I had thoughts of suicide; it impacted me in ways I didn’t have enough money to feed myself. There are not enough safeguards and protection in place to safeguard children and the vulnerable.”
Ideally, Ian would like to see a watershed in place to stop gambling adverts being shown on television before 9pm. He feels that by implementing a watershed feature on these advertisements, it will minimise the chance of these messages reaching children. The life-shattering effects a gambling addiction had on him are that which is driving Ian forward with this, and he wants to prevent more people suffering as he did.
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Tracey Crouch, has commented on the issue by saying, “The government is committed to ensuring that people, particularly the young and vulnerable, are protected from the risk of gambling-related harm. We are keeping the issue of advertising under review to ensure that sufficient protections are in place, and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary.”
Many healthcare professionals and charities are concerned about the increasing number of gambling addicts, with around 500,000 in the UK. One particular charity that supports addicts with counselling and a dedicated helpline for gamblers is GamCare. They have highlighted that the number of addicts they are treating rose from approximately 3,300 in 2014 to around 5,500 in 2015, meaning a worrying increase of about 40 per cent. Around 50 per cent of those who seek support from the organisation is online punters.
The Gambling Commission, set up after gambling laws were liberalised in 2005, has introduced new rules that allow online punters to take a break from betting while keeping their online accounts open, should they want to return. This can be a hiatus from anything between 24 hours to six months. Another beneficial feature is that accounts can be deactivated by simply pressing a button instead of having to physically call the betting company, as was the norm. This now makes it a hassle-free experience for those customers who are unsure of whether they should do it and then end up putting it off because they have to phone to actually cancel.
Excessive gambling can trigger an array of emotional symptoms as well, including depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. In some extreme cases, these suicidal thoughts can push the addict towards actually making an attempt on his/her life. Some gambling addicts can and do lose everything to their gambling, including money, jobs, partners, and families. This is often the reason for the depression and suicidal tendencies.
As gambling can have emotional effects such as depression or anxiety, some physical symptoms can point to addiction as well. These can include sleep disorders such as insomnia, which in turn can result in weight loss or gain, dark circles under the eyes, and even pale skin.
If you think that you or a loved one might be suffering from a gambling addiction, call UKAT today for advice, information and treatment options.
Source: Nottingham man who lost £100,000-plus to gambling addiction calls for TV ad ban (Notts TV)
Growing problem in UK; new rules aim to curb addiction (The Straits Times)
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