Children will need to be treated for severe gambling addiction soon, charity warns MPs

Photo: Kim Mogg/NationalWorld
Experts say that the government’s gambling white paper could have gone further on advertising and marketing

A leading provider of support for severe gambling addiction in adults has predicted they will need to start treating children in the near future.

Experts from gambling addiction support charities warned MPs that measures proposed by the government to better regulate the industry and reduce problem gambling may not go far enough to protect children.

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MPs and the government have been subjected to a major lobbying campaign from the gambling industry in recent years, in the run up to the publication of a long-awaited white paper. It is likely these efforts will continue as many of the measures in the white paper are still subject to a lengthy consultation process.

Two members of the Culture, Media and Sport committee, which is carrying out the inquiry into gambling regulation, have received hospitality in recent years from the industry’s primary lobbying group, the Betting and Gaming Council.

What did experts say about the gambling white paper?

Gordon Moody provides residential treatment for adults at two specialist facilities, in Dudley and Manchester, offering support to people suffering from the most severe effects of gambling addiction.

Giving evidence to MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport select committee yesterday (16 May) the charity’s chief executive Matthew Hickey said their service users are often on the verge of suicide and Gordon Moody is a “last chance saloon for them”.

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Asked about whether the government’s gambling white paper does enough to protect children from gambling advertising and marketing, Hickey said that while Gordon Moody does not currently offer treatment for children, he believes it will need to in the near future.

Hickey also stressed the importance of providing support for children as “affected others” in relation to gambling addiction.

“Clients will say they became an addict because they saw their parents as a gambling addict. It was learned behaviour ‘because dad went into the bookies’ or ‘we went into the pub and from the age of 7 I was allowed to go on the fruit machines in the pub’. That’s what we see. They’ve learned that behaviour from their parents.”

While broadly supportive of the measures set out in the white paper, the experts said they had some concerns that further delays to the consultations could create problems in the short term. Hickey also stressed that delays in the publication of the white paper to this point had made it very difficult for support organisations to operate.

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Anna Hemmings of GamCare said that the government’s proposals on marketing and advertising “could have been stronger” and that there is currently not enough information about “how gambling-like behaviours for young people like loot boxes, esports and so on will impact their future gambling behaviour”.

She highlighted “direct marketing, social media and channels like YouTube” as “places where young people particularly would be potentially exposed to advertising and marketing”.

Anna Hargrave of GambleAware said the government should have included a ban on advertising on football shirt sleeves and in stadiums, as well as greater protections for young people on social media.

Hargrave said she felt there were “missed opportunities” in the white paper and highlighted the vast amount of money that gambling companies spend on advertising, around £1.5 billion per year.

“Compared to the money we can spend on campaigns raising awareness, it’s absolutely tiny,” she said.

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