Yes We Can Beat Problem Gambling…But

There’s positively a mixed bag of results and conclusions coming out of the first detailed investigation into the issue of “Problem Gamblers”.

According to a newly published report by GambleAware on the National Gambling Treatment Service (NGTS) there’s a 60 per cent success rate in treating gambling addiction – figures that would be hailed as spectacular if applied to alcohol or drug addicts, where successful treatment rates hover around 30 per cent.

But with an estimated 280,000 problem gamblers in England alone– according to a 2018 study by the National Health Service—there’s still a veritable mountain to be climbed.

The GambleAware analysis followed 9,008 NGTS clients through a treatment programme between April 2019 and March 2020.

Nearly all patients (90 per cent) saw their so-called Problem Gambling Severity Index (PSGI) score improve — and a similarly high number also recorded big improvements in their distress, or CORE-10, levels.

Record numbers of patients, most of them self-referred, completed the course of treatment: 75 per cent, compared to 65 per cent in the 2015-16 cohort, for example.

The majority of those treated in 2019-20 were men, three-quarters of them from a White ethnic background, with an average age of 34-years-old. Ethnic Asians made up five per cent of patients, Black ethnicity made up three per cent.

Almost half of the problem gamblers had debts of over £5,000 (US$6,500/€5,500), were bankrupt or in an Individual Voluntary Arrangement with creditors as a result of gambling. The average gaming spend of each patient in the month before assessment was just over £2,000 (US$2,600/€2,200).

The majority of individuals treated in the NGTS programme, some 69 per cent, favoured online betting; 38 per cent said they gambled in bookmakers. Sports betting was the most popular vertical (25 per cent), followed by online slots (22 per cent) and table games (20 per cent).

“The publication of this detailed analysis is a significant milestone,” said Mark Etches, the outgoing Chief Executive of GambleAware, which commissioned ViewItUK to collate the data.

“We are committed to informing the development of best practice and outstanding care for those experiencing gambling harms in Great Britain. And the data reporting system we are pioneering is designed to be made available to the NHS, public health and local authorities and other statutory and voluntary sector agencies,” said Etches.

The NGTS’s network of treatment services is free and primarily funded by GambleAware.

It features online and telephone treatment services, residential therapy and ties-in with NHS clinics for severe gambling addiction cases.

Meanwhile, NHS England’s Mental Health Director Claire Murdoch said the service had recently opened four new clinics to address the shortage of specialist treatment centres for problem gamblers.

“The [NGTS] report should act as a wake-up call to a gambling industry that still causes extraordinary harm. More clearly needs to be done to prevent vulnerable punters needing NHS treatment in the first place,” charged Murdoch.

Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, said greater involvement from the NHS would help more people get help. And she called for treatment services for at least 10 per cent of problem gamblers.

For its part, industry body the Betting & Gaming Council (BGC) has offered to donate £100m over four years–to be paid by the five biggest firms–to fund education and treatment for safer gambling.

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