You may have heard of FOBTs in the press again this week alongside a concern for vulnerable users, but among the background talk of doing more for those affected by gambling in the UK was the news that Leeds, 200 miles from London, has been chosen to host an NHS addiction clinic.
It will be the first one outside of the capital but is much needed, because research by Leeds Beckett University found that 8% of the Leeds population can be categorized as either problem or “at risk” gamblers.
Research has also shown that the rate of problem gambling in Leeds is roughly twice the national average. The new clinic will provide a range of treatments for severe or complex gambling problems while being easily commutable from other major northern cities such as Manchester, York, and Sheffield.
GambleAware provides funding
The NHS Northern Gambling Clinic will start operating at an as-yet-unconfirmed location in Leeds in April and will receive £1.2m ($1.6m) in annual funding from the GambleAware charity, which backs the National Problem Gambling Clinic in London. They believe the London clinic has demonstrated the value of treatment by psychiatrists and clinical psychologists for pathological gambling needs since it opened in 2008.
Services will be delivered by the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and GamCare, described as a “leading provider of information, advice, support, and free counseling” on problem gambling.
Matt Gaskell, a consultant psychologist for addiction services at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, highlighted the problems that can be associated with gambling, such as mental health problems.
Gaskell said: “Gambling addiction has a devastating effect on people’s lives and those around them, including their loved ones. It can lead to serious debt and family breakdown, people losing their jobs, people turning to crime in desperation for funds, and even suicide. In fact, of all the addictions people suffer from, gambling has the highest suicide rate.”
Satellite units are planned
Plans are already in place for smaller satellite units in other key locations across the North as part of the scheme.
In the first instance, training and support will be given to primary care and council workers, with efforts being made to reach out into the community to help groups of people, especially those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, who are traditionally less likely to get treatment for gambling addiction.
GambleAware chief executive Marc Etches said: “Our aim is to stop people getting into problems with their gambling and to ensure those that do develop problems receive fast and effective treatment and support. We look forward to developing the new partnership and are grateful for the enthusiasm within Leeds City Council for helping to make this innovative proposal successful.”
Tracey Crouch quits
Figures show that about 430,000 people nationwide have a gambling problem and another two million are at risk of developing a problem. These figures have been well discussed in Parliament recently with the announcement on a crack-down on FOBTs, but the slowness of the implementation led to a minister resigning last week.
Sports Minister Tracey Crouch quit the government in protest after Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that a reduction in the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals would not be introduced until next October.
Meanwhile, the Gambling Commission has taken on the mission of clamping down on operators who do not ensure enough checks are done on the most vulnerable, handing out some record fines earlier this year to show that they mean business.
The new clinic will add a show of solidarity to vulnerable users in the UK, who are seeing the pastime move more and more into the media spotlight.