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The gambling sector has never done better. Since gambling was liberalised some decade ago, the annual sum operators win has increased by 65%. Moreover, the income is soaring due to the proliferation of online games of chance.
But, what about players? Well, according to recent studies, there are 430,000 gambling addicts in the UK. Many more are at risk of developing a serious gambling habit. Considering the scale of the problem, it is shocking how little the government has done so far. The time would be now to grasp the full extent it is shocking how little the government has done so far. The time would be now to grasp the full extent of damaging habits and address the root of the problem.
Putting all the cards on the table
The Gambling Commission has found that many operators failed to meet regulatory requirements and adhere to multi-operator self-exclusion schemes. Namely, some of them continued servicing gamblers that declared self-exclusion or marketed services to them. This way, the addicts remain hooked on machines, despite the urge to escape the pitfall.
There are many other operators that make lacklustre attempts at discouraging addicts. Fortunately, on the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the likes of PlayOjo online casino and huge gambling company Bet365, with both operators actively promoting the benefits of channels for player care. In this gambling support group research, several noteworthy organisations are cited. These support groups are very affordable and often are completely free to join with face-to-face counselling on offer. One of the largest support groups, Gamblers Anonymous is a network connecting problem gamblers and giving them a chance to see that they are not alone. Likewise, GameCare leads the way ahead when it comes to offering free counselling, advice, and information. All services are expert and confidential. Yet, this is not enough.
In the whole of UK, there is still only one NHS clinic for treating gambling addiction. To make it worse, the government does not even know how many people were treated by the NHS. That puts a lot of strain on the aforementioned organisations for support. It also reflects the failure of officials to recognise that the hidden epidemic of problem gamblers is actually a public health crisis of the most serious nature.
Taking this into accounts, we cannot be surprised by the lack of funding for research, education, and specialised treatment. This is a significant challenge and only the synergy of many different steps and actions can uncover the deep roots that gambling has in underlying social conditions and turn the situation around. And the situation is certainly perilous.
Playing with fire
The social costs of addiction are estimated to £1.2 a year and encompass treatment, welfare, housing, and criminal justice. As for all the dire consequences, they cannot be put into numbers. But, we do see that addiction can lead to severed family connections, ruined careers, criminal behaviour, and poverty. So, let us see addiction for what it is: a problem that wreaks havoc individuals, families, and the community.
Youth gambling, in particular, is a burning issue. A significant segment of a younger population seems to be under a false impression that gambling represents a consequence-free joyride with quick money as a reward. Nowadays, they are exposed to gambling is less traditional ways, via eSports, apps, and social media. Many of them take part in skins betting, whereby they bet using in-game items with real-money value.
This is just one indication how deeply has gambling penetrated into the daily reality of people, and how it operates in a clandestine fashion. New forms of gambling, especially in the online sector, are levelling the playing field and creating an environment of easy access. If anything, the players should be made aware that the odds are not stacked in their favour.
Time to stop making bets in a burning house
The British gambling industry has grown into a giant that leaves a blazing trail in its wake. As profits rise, the treatment of addiction and gambling-related harm lags far behind. The government has to awaken to the grim reality, while the gambling industry must be forced to step up and contribute a good share of the cost. It is clear that we need a new approach, mindset, and strategy, fit for the high-tech, digital age. Problem gamblers deserve nothing less.