05 July 2016

Shocking Figures Highlight the Need to Tackle Gambling Addiction

While most people in the UK can enjoy a quick flutter on the horses occasionally or have no problems playing the lottery every week, others are struggling to cope with a destructive gambling addiction that has devastated all aspects of their lives.

Gambling addiction wreaks havoc on those affected as well as on the lives of those closest to them. There are no outward physical signs to indicate that a person has a gambling addiction; as such, it has been labelled a ‘secret’ or ‘hidden’ addiction. However, this illness is one that can result in a host of negative consequences for the individual and his/her loved ones. And it is a problem that is growing all the time. In fact, the Gambling Commission has revealed that in the twelve months to September 2015, British people lost £12.6 billion on gambling.

Shock Figures

This number was an increase of almost twelve per cent on the previous twelve months and equates to around £500 per year for every British household. There are many reasons gambling addiction is affecting more and more people, including the fact that it has never been easier to gamble. Internet accessibility and the explosion of online gaming sites has to be a factor, but most believe that fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) are the real scourge.

FOBTs are placed in almost every betting shop in the country, and these allow gamblers to play casino-style games. With these machines capable of spinning three times per minute and with a maximum spin limit of £100 per spin, it is easy to see how gamblers can lose thousands of pounds in one sitting; and even easier to see how FOBTs are raking in huge profits for betting companies.

Campaigners have been calling for the Government to reduce the maximum spin limit to just £2, but with FOBTs bringing in £425 million for the Treasury in 2015 alone, it’s hard to imagine that these calls will be answered.

Impact on Society

FOBTs are not just having a negative impact on a few individuals around the country; they are having a tremendous impact on the wider community. Gambling addiction has been cited as grounds for divorce in a fifth of all uncontested divorce petitions, according to Divorce Online. Just a few short years ago, that figure was one in fifteen. With divorce directly linked to an increase in benefits, the taxpayer appears to be paying the price.

There have also been incidents where gamblers have become violent and aggressive towards betting shop staff after losing large sums of money on FOBTs. Some have even become so enraged that they have smashed the machines as well as other items within the betting shop.

Encouraging the Problem

The gaming industry continues to state that it takes gambling addiction very seriously and does everything it can to protect those who are vulnerable to addiction. Nevertheless, recent investigations have found that this is not always the case. Existing and former betting shop staff have spoken out about how they were instructed to encourage gamblers to continue betting by offering them refreshments. One manager told of how he was instructed by senior staff to buy lunch for gamblers so that they did not have to leave the machine to get it themselves.

Online gaming companies are also guilty of encouraging individuals to gamble. Free bets are commonly advertised and are given to those who open new accounts with a particular site. These ‘free’ bets are designed to hook potential big spenders.

Online gaming sites are often quite misleading with their advertising, too. Many of these ads show young people gambling together on their mobile devices, but the reality is that online gambling is often a solitary activity with most people hiding what they are doing from those around them.

Consequences of a Gambling Addiction

Not everyone who gambles will become a gambling addict. The truth is that some people can gamble in moderation while others will become so obsessed with the thrill of gambling that it threatens to destroy their lives.

Gambling addiction is like any other addiction in that it is a pattern of behaviour that has a negative impact on the person affected. Gambling addicts have no control over their urge to gamble and usually suffer financial hardship as a result. They may be unable to provide for their family, and many will rack up thousands of pounds in debt as they continue to borrow to fund their addiction.

In most cases, gambling addictions only come to light when the person is unable to pay back what he or she has borrowed and is in danger of losing everything. This can place undue stress on the entire family and, in many instances, results in the breakdown of relationships. It is also quite common for those with a gambling addiction to consider suicide as a means of escape.


  1. That’s the staggering sum Britons now lose every year on gambling addiction (Daily Mail)

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