A new approach to tackling problem gambling
Major retail and commercial bank NatWest is trialing a new pilot scheme that will see problem gambling counseling sessions held at some of its branches across the United Kingdom.
Problem gamblers can book a counseling appointment with NatWest even if they are not customers
NatWest is partnering with UK charity GamCare to provide space for counseling at thirteen NatWest branches during this trial period. The locations for these initial trials will be in London, the Midlands, and the east of England. Problem gamblers can book a counseling appointment with NatWest even if they are not customers of the bank.
If the project proves successful, the counseling initiative could be rolled out across NatWest locations nationwide. The company, which is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland, has about 700 branches today.
NatWest looking to make a change
NatWest believes its branches can be a safe space as some addicts may not want to go to an addiction center. Head of Lending Phil Sheehy said: “We want to look at what we can do to help people who may be struggling with a gambling addiction, which can have a significant effect financially.”
The banking firm is also considering allowing the stoppage of any gambling transactions made through credit cards. A similar approach has already been taken by other banks in the UK, such as Starling, Barclays, and Monzo.
The response to NatWest’s initiative
The groundbreaking pilot scheme has had a positive response so far. The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, Nicky Morgan, called on other banks to think about engaging in similar partnerships with gambling addiction charities. He said:
I will closely monitor NatWest’s progress and I urge others in the banking sector to follow suit for the good of their customers.”
As well as providing counseling sessions, GamCare will also train the NatWest staff to help support customers who may have gambling issues.
Gambling addiction a serious issue in the UK
The latest research for the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) indicates that about 340,000 adults in the country are problem gamblers, accounting for 0.7% of the entire adult population. There are another 550,000 people that suffer in some way due to gambling.
Gambling addiction is very costly to the UK economy as well as increasing suicide risks. While there are continuous efforts to improve the situation, underfunding is also a reality. Currently, there are just two dedicated gambling addiction centers in all of England. A nationwide self-exclusion program has also had issues in its beginning stages.