A Losing Bet? Alcohol and Gambling: Investigating Parallels and Shared Solutions, a report by Alcohol Concern and the Royal College of Psychiatrists

There is a great deal in common in the nature of alcohol and gambling problems and in the ways they can be prevented and treated. This report, out this week, from two eminent and influential organisations, breaks new ground by considering alcohol and gambling and the harms each can cause side-by-side. The field of gambling studies has a great deal to learn from its alcohol counterpart, which is much longer and better established. Gambling Watch UK welcomes this report and fully endorses its recommendations.

The first recommendation is that the availability of gambling should not be allowed to increase and that special care should be taken with new technologies. This is particularly true in the case of gambling: no new form of gambling or significant development of an existing form should be allowed to become legal or to be made more available without a proper social and health impact assessment. If that had been done in the case of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs or B2 gambling machines), the problems associated with them which are now causing so much concern might have been avoided.

The second recommendation is that children should be properly protected. It may be recalled that the Gambling Review Body (the Budd committee), which preceded the 2005 Gambling Act, expressed great concern about Category D gambling machines which children are allowed to play in Britain, unlike almost anywhere else. Their report said that, were we starting from scratch, that would not be legal, and that this issue should be kept under review. All the attention which has been given since to casinos, internet gambling, and FOBTs, has pushed that issue into the background, but it should not be allowed to slip off the agenda.

The third recommendation is that there should be good access to advice and treatment. Although some progress has been made on that score – for example the first NHS Problem Gambling Clinic set up in London, and the GamCare counselling and helpline services – the availability of treatment and advice for gambling problems is still unacceptably thin and patchy considering that adult prevalence in Britain is very similar to the prevalence of problems relating to illicit drug consumption (in the region of 6 to 9 per 1000 of the population).

The fourth recommendation is also well taken: we agree that there should be improved screening for gambling problems in all substance misuse services. We would add that there should be similar screening in all mental health services and in services serving other vulnerable groups such as offenders and the homeless and those with continuing debt problems. But the majority of people who get into trouble with gambling are not in those particularly high risk groups, and progress on identification of gambling problems will only be made when frontline and primary care professionals are much more aware of such problems they are now, which is the report’s fifth recommendation.

With recommendations six and seven we heartily concur. A national database about gambling problem gambling is essential for planning treatment and prevention. Britain was in the lead internationally in having carried out three national gambling prevalence surveys in the first decade of the 20th century and the intention was that these should be repeated regularly from now on. The 2012 report of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on the workings of the 2005 Gambling Act was rightly critical of the Government’s decision to withdraw funding from the Gambling Commission for these important surveys.

The final recommendation may be one of the most important. A general conclusion to be drawn from the Alcohol Concern/Royal College of Psychiatrists report is that gambling and the harm associated with it should be viewed as a public health issue. It follows that there should be a major role in Government for the Department of Health (DoH), and in service delivery for Public Health England. Lead Government responsibility, which used to be with the Home Office, was transferred under New Labour to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The latter department, as well as having an increasing burden of other major issues to contend with, is not in our experience competent to consider the health aspects of gambling and problem gambling. DoH must be asked to play a part.

Finally, there is the interesting question of whether alcohol and gambling mix. The evidence, hardly surprisingly, suggests that they do not: decisions taken in a state of intoxication are generally riskier and poorer. This was recognised by the Budd committee which made it one of its principles that the two should be separated as far as possible. Thought might be given to following Norway in the way this is dealt with: we understand that in that country a licence to serve alcoholic beverages may be withdrawn if gambling is also on offer. There might be a lot of support in Britain for removing gambling machines from our pubs!

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Type the text presented in the image below

Latest UK News

Gambling industry fails to answer calls for controls during the virus crisis

14 Apr 2020

I was one of 12 academics and doctors who sent a letter to the Times last week calling for a suspension of gambling advertising during the crisis. Twenty...

Are betting companies taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis?

28 Mar 2020

Betting companies, like so many others, are facing uncertainty created by the coronavirus crisis. Will their profits decrease or, because people are confined...

New book on gambling is a must-read

24 Mar 2020

Rebecca Cassidy 2020 Vicious Games: Capitalism and Gambling. London: Pluto Press. No one knows better than Rebecca Cassidy the way in which betting has...

Gambling company sponsorship of football – What should be done?

09 Mar 2020

Following the announcement of a ban on the use of credit cards for gambling in the UK from April, the spotlight is now on the Government to see how quickly it...

Gambling Commission’s industry groups on safer gambling: a conflict of interests

07 Feb 2020

The Gambling Commission is setting up three industry-led working groups to help take forward its ‘drive to make gambling safer’ (see GC newsletter 27 January...

Betting companies admit that a huge percentage of ‘deposits’ come from a few customers

07 Feb 2020

The five big betting companies have admitted, for the first time, under questioning from members of the House of Lords Select Committee on gambling harm, that...

Gambling with credit cards banned from April

22 Jan 2020

After holding a consultation, the Gambling Commission has decided to ban gambling operators accepting payment with credit cards, starting on April 14th. At...

NHS England blames the gambling industry for gambling addiction and plans new gambling clinics

08 Jan 2020

‘The NHS is facing a rising tide of gambling related ill health’, says NHS England. Their data show the number of gambling related hospital admissions has...

Pub allows under 18s to use gambling machines and loses its permit

19 Dec 2019

For the first time a British pub has been stripped of its permit to have gambling machines on its premises (Gambling Commission 16 December 2019). Redbridge...

Parliamentary group lambasts online gambling

05 Dec 2019

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm (APPG-GRH) has produced an Interim Report into the Online Gambling Sector which does not mince...

Political parties pledge gambling reform

05 Dec 2019

All four main political parties going into the December 12th general election make specific mention of gambling in their manifestos. Congratulations to...

'The Gambling Establishment' is published - a must read

18 Sep 2019

An important new book will be out in a few days time: The Gambling Establishment: Challenging the Power of the Modern Gambling Industry and Its Allies, by Jim...

The tide is turning against the gambling industry

09 Aug 2019

Great BBC TV programme available online at bbc.co.uk/bbcthree from 4 July 2019. Comedian Lloyd Griffith fails to double his money during a week of gambling,...

Gambling with Lives launch shows the tide is turning

17 Nov 2018

Tuesday this week, 13th November 2018, was the launch of Gambling with Lives (GwL) at the Houses of Parliament. The event was extremely well attended by...

Gambling with Lives

16 Aug 2018

Gambling with Lives (GwL) is a new group started by the parents of a young man with a gambling addiction who committed suicide. They are naturally grief...

FOBT Stake Cut to £2 Maximum

17 May 2018

The Government has at last seen sense and done what we and so many others have been asking for. Today it has announced it is bringing the maximum stake per...

What do you think about online gambling marketing: Gambling Commission wants to know

13 Feb 2018

The Gambling Commission (GC) has announced that it is working with the Competition and Markets Authority to make sure that online gambling companies bring...

Gambling: a big public health problem neglected

15 Sep 2017

The Gambling Commission has just published a summary of British survey findings for 2015. The results are not new but this is the first time they have put...

Are we seeing a backlash against liberalised commercial gambling?

05 Jun 2017

I have seen a couple of signs just recently that the tide might be turning against the establishment assumption that a strong, innovating and widely...

Gambling problems are costing Government hundreds of millions

13 Jan 2017

An important report came out at the end of 2016. This was from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), an influential and progressive British...

What shall we say to the Government enquiry on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals?

07 Nov 2016

Good news! Well maybe, let’s wait and see what the actual outcome is. But we do welcome the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) putting out a...

Honest admissions by prominent gambling establishment figure

11 Aug 2016

Gambling Commission’s former Chair talks at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA)   Following his five years as Chair of the Gambling Commission, Philip Graf was...

Support Gambling Watch UK

Together we can make a difference

We believe there is overwhelming support for the view that there are already too many opportunities for gambling and that this is bad for individual, family and community health, but our voices need to be heard if we are to influence public policy..

Click here to register your support