NHS – Gambling Industry Must Take Responsibility for Gambling Addiction
NHS chief urges the gambling industry to take greater responsibility in helping and preventing people from developing a gambling addiction. She argued that it should not be the responsibility of the NHS to fund treatment for problem gamblers. Instead, she says that the gambling industry should take steps to end the tactics fuelling the crisis.
The head of the NHS’s mental health services has said that the tactics used by gambling firms to retain customers suffering from a gambling addiction – such as targeted adverts aimed at gamblers looking for help with recovery – are creating problems for the NHS.
Claire Murdoch, head of England’s mental health services, wrote to Neil McArthur, Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission and Brigid Simmonds, chair of the Betting and Gaming Council outlining her concerns about problem gambling in the UK. She said that the NHS “should not be expected to pick up the pieces” when people can no longer control their gambling addictions.
With extensive experience within the NHS, working in the mental health services for more than 30-years, Ms Murdoch says that she has “seen first-hand the devastating impact on the mental wellbeing of addiction”. She highlighted, in particular, the use of specific tactics that manipulated problem gamblers to continue to chase their losses, which appears to be increasing the prevalence of gambling addictions. The targeting of high-loss customers does seem particularly predatory and a change here would be a welcome one.
She believes that offering incentives to continue gambling to people who have recently lost vast sums of money was creating a vicious cycle for these people, many of whom found it increasingly difficult to escape. These incentives include things such as free bets and VIP experiences.
She argues that these tactics lead to unnecessary damage to society and to individual lives, but that they are avoidable by putting measures in place to minimise the risk to vulnerable people.
The letter is the latest in a string of pressure placed on the gambling industry to make greater and faster changes in the respect of protecting problem gamblers. For example, on the 14th January 2020, the Gambling Commission introduced a blanket ban on the use of credit cards to place bets.
Industry Response to Gambling Addiction Concerns
In response to the letter, Ms Simmonds invited Ms Murdoch for a meeting with industry bosses to address concerns and find a way forward in a manner that will help facilitate safer gambling within the gambling industry. Measures will include better education of the dangers of gambling and better treatment for gambling addicts.
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