Following a recent report published by Public Health England (PHE) Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen demands more needs to done to recognise problem gambling and prevent people turning to crime to fund their addiction.
PHE published evidence showing criminal activity linked to problem gambling is worth £162million a year. The review included the most comprehensive estimate of the economic burden of gambling on society to date, revealing that the harms associated with gambling cost at least £1.27 billion in 2019 to 2020 in England alone. Gambling related harms in the analysis ranged from financial such as bankruptcy and employment issues, to family issues, and health harms such as suicide.
The evidence suggests 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 with an approach that focuses on prevention, early intervention and treatment.
Furthermore, the review showed that people at risk of gambling harms are concentrated in areas of higher deprivation, such as the North of England, and may already be experiencing greater health inequalities.
This week marks the start of National Safer Gambling Week driving awareness of how to gamble more safely and the services available to support problem gambling.
Joy Allen is the Association of Police and Crime Commissioner’s Joint Lead for its relaunched Addictions and Substance Misuse portfolio.
Ms Allen said: “Adult gambling is not a crime, and many people are able to enjoy gambling safely. But just like alcohol it can be highly addictive and dangerous. People may resort to burglary or theft to feed their addiction. Money worries can lead to domestic violence and abuse. If debt spirals, loan sharks and other manipulative people can blackmail or coerce vulnerable addicts into other criminal activity. Further harms associated with gambling include mental health conditions, homelessness, and unemployment.
“There was a recent case in County Durham where a young man has been jailed for dealing drugs to fund his gambling debts. We need to address gambling addiction where it is a driver of these crimes and prevent further harm to individuals and families.
“We need better awareness of gambling harms, effective screening that can identify offenders with gambling problems in custody suites, training for custody officers and others and an effective response centred around evidence-based solutions. I am pleased that the NHS and Public Health England are recognising this issue and I am keen to work with local partners and other PCCs to look at how we can also tackle problem gambling.
“We also need to ensure gambling companies are playing their part in dealing with the consequences of problem gambling, for example by returning money to victims of theft. I want to encourage those presenting with gambling addictions to use the support services available to prevent further harm and crime.”
If you or someone you know if suffering from gambling addiction you can find support from the NHS Northern Gambling Service by contacting them on 0300 300 1490 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org / https://www.leedsandyorkpft.nhs.uk/our-services/northern-gambling-service/
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