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A landmark report from Public Health England (PHE) has been published today. This is ‘the first comprehensive review of the evidence on gambling harms and their impact in England, using the best available scientific evidence.’

It includes an estimate of the economic burden of gambling on society, suggesting that ‘the harms associated with gambling cost at least £1.27 billion in 2019-20 in England alone.’ PHE say correctly that this is a substantial underestimate because so many of the costs associated with gambling cannot easily be quantified in money terms. The review also shows that there are relatively more people at-risk of gambling harms in areas of higher deprivation, such as the North of England.

The link between gambling and mental health issues is also highlighted. The report found that ‘gambling can increase the likelihood of some people thinking about, attempting or dying from suicide’; in fact the evidence ‘suggests that people with gambling problems are at least twice as likely to die from suicide compared to the general population’.

Statements in support of action to reduce the harm that gambling is now causing are already starting to pour in. PHE themselves state that ‘harmful gambling should be considered a public health issue because it is associated with harms to individuals, their families, close associates and wider society’. The focus should be on ‘prevention, early intervention and treatment.’ The Minister for Mental Health, Gillian Keegan said: ‘Whilst the economic costs of harmful gambling are stark, the cost to individuals as a result of their addiction, and those around them, cannot be overstated’. A statement from the Association of Directors of Public Health, says: ‘This evidence review from PHE paints a stark picture of the avoidable harms from gambling to the economy, society and the individual… A public health approach, with cross-government support, properly funded, is essential to reducing harmful gambling and all the negative consequences highlighted by this research in relation to debt, relationships and jobs.’ The President of the Faculty of Public Health says: ‘Gambling organisations are preying on people’s addictions, and we see that the burden of gambling harms is born by those already facing disadvantage, serving to widen existing health inequalities. This report is welcome as it highlights the wide range of harms caused by gambling, and calls for concerted action to tackle this major public health problem.’

Before long Gambling Watch UK, along with others, will be publishing our specific demands for action. Look out for this in the forthcoming weeks. There can be no excuse now if the Government fails to act decisively in the interests of individual, family and societal health.

 

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