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Gambling and Public Health

  • By Jack Eddy

Gambling as a Public Health Issue

Gambling is often described as a “hidden addiction” and ‘Problem Gambling’ is now recognised as a complex issue that impacts individuals, families, and communities. However, it remains an area that can benefit from further serious and comprehensive study, with the level of societal impact still not well understood.

Statistics published by the Gambling Commission suggested that the number of British “problem gamblers,” or people whose lives are damaged by their gambling, had risen by more than 53 percent between 2012 and 2015, from 280,000 to 430,000.

Gambling is now recognised as a serious public health issue. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, problem gamblers are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, develop stress-related disorders, become anxious, have poor sleep and appetite, develop a substance misuse problem or suffer from depression. It is also estimated that between 4% and 11.3% of suicides are related to gambling. If these figures were applied across London, this would indicate that between 22 and 61 suicides a year were related to gambling.

 

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs)

Sometimes referred to as the “crack cocaine of gambling”, Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (or B2 machines), are touch screen roulette machines on which gamblers can play casino games with a stake of up to £100 every 20 seconds.

Since their introduction, FOBTs have become a very profitable part of the business model for bookmakers and are estimated to take up as much as 50% of high street bookmakers profits.

The Government launched a 12-week consultation on 31st October 2017 to gather evidence on what level maximum stakes for FOBTs should be. This has followed years of campaigning from external organisations and Local Authorities, as well as Parliamentary critics – most notably the APPG on FOBTs - to lower the threshold from £100 to £2.

The consultation ended in January 2018 and the Government has since announced that they will be enforcing the £2 limit. No timetable has yet been set for implementation and a 2 year “grace” period to allow the gambling industry time to adjust to the change in legislation means that the £100 maximum stake will remain in place until at least 2020.

Jack Eddy, Principal Policy & Project Officer (Health & Adult Services)