A reply to Dr Mark Griffiths - Rethink Gambling

A reply to Dr Mark Griffiths

The national wealth service: Problem gambling is a health issue


Whilst it is good to see that you agree that disordered gambling is a public health issue, it is interesting that you seem to take a slightly different view in your recent publication for the Association of British Bookmakers, (Problem gambling in Great Britain: A brief review, July 2014), where you conclude:

“This brief review has demonstrated that problem gambling in Great Britain is a minority problem that effects (sic) less than 1% of the British population and that the prevalence rate is much lower than in most other countries. Problem gambling also appears to be less of a problem than many other potentially addictive behaviours. The latest British research tends to suggest that the prevalence rate of problem gambling is slightly declining. Data also appears to suggest that since 2010, that rate of problem gambling in England has dropped by around 40% but the rates of problem gambling in Scotland have held relatively stable. Rates of pathological gambling appear to be extremely low and in some surveys were not even reported as the base sizes were simply too small”

Real world figures are probably significantly higher as research has found that 60% of gambling addicts would either refuse to participate, or lie about the extent of their gambling in a prevalence survey. (Australian Government Productivity Commission, Gambling 2010 Inquiry Report)

The last British Gambling Prevalence Survey in 2010 estimated that there were over 450,000 adult gambling addicts in the UK – an increase of more than 200,000 since the previous survey in 2007, each with an average debt of £17,500. Another 900,000 people were at “moderate risk” of becoming disordered gamblers, while 2.7 million more displayed “some risk factors”. (British Gambling Prevalence Surveys, NatCen, 2007, 2010). Remarkably, Britain is one of the few countries to allow children to gamble. The result is > 60,000 young people are suffering from disordered gambling or gambling addiction. (British Survey of Children, the National Lottery and Gambling 2008-09: Report of a quantitative survey, IPSOS Mori, 2009)

It is estimated that for every disordered gambler at least 10 other family members, friends and colleagues are also directly affected (The Social Impact of Problem Gambling, Gordon Moody Association, 2014) – this means that an absolute minimum of 5 million people are directly affected.

The social cost of gambling to the UK economy was estimated in 2012 as £3.8 billion. (Gamcare Annual Review and Plan 2012-15, 2012).

A Losing Bet? Alcohol and Gambling: Investigating Parallels and Shared Solutions, a report by Alcohol Concern and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, recommended that the availability of gambling should not be allowed to increase and that special care should be taken with new technologies.

Professor Jim Orford has said that:

“no new form of gambling or significant development of an existing form should be allowed to become legal or to be made available without a proper social and health impact assessment. If that had been done in the case of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs or Category B2 gaming machines), the problems associated with them which are now causing so much concern might have been avoided”

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