The ITV documentary Ross Kemp Living with Online Gambling Addiction identified that around 550 people die from gambling-related suicide in the UK every single year. He interviewed a teacher whose life and family were significantly impacted when she lost £127,000 in just 26 minutes playing online roulette.

The person interviewed by BBC Panorama described how if she hadn't gone online for a day, the online gambling company were very quickly on the phone to her or sending her emails to encourage her to continue gambling. In total, she lost £633,000 to the online gambling company. Whenever she lost a lot of money, they offered her free cash bonuses to keep gambling despite her telling them that she was in a bad way and desperately worried about her finances.  

For someone with a gambling addiction, the feeling of gambling is equivalent to taking a drug, or having a drink. Gambling behaviour alters the person's mood and state of mind. It is clear that gambling companies understand the psychology of addiction and use this to get people playing online gambling games. Whether it is intentional or not, this approach results in vulnerable people who are prone to addiction becoming the primary target group, as someone who is not prone to addiction would simply stop and not be compelled to continue despite offers of credit to continue playing.     

Whilst the Gambling Commission regulates gambling companies, regulations only cover ensuring that gamblers are not underage, that advertising is responsible and that there is a complaints process. It currently does not restrict companies from engaging in activities to encourage continued gambling by people who have lost significant sums of money. 

The entire onus is on the individual to manage their gambling activity despite gambling addiction being recognised by the NHS as an illness in the same way that addiction to alcohol is, with treatment options available.

If you, or someone you know, would like help or support to deal with gambling issues, call us on 0300 330 9037.

 

Pat Coomber-Wood

Chief Executive Officer

Citizens Advice North Oxon and South Northants