Scots gambling group sees helpline calls surge

A Scottish charity offering one-to-one counselling for problem gamblers says its caseload has doubled in the last year since the law was softened.

Researchers say the problem could become worse when the economy improves, making the situation “like a timebomb ticking away”.

The latest annual figures from Renfrewshire Council for Alcohol Trust (RCAT), which also helps people with gambling addiction, show that the number of cases rose over the last year from 117 to 251.

Counselling appointments saw a three-fold increase from 497 the previous year to 1,296.

Andy Todd, an experienced gambling counsellor at RCAT, said: “Gambling has become more socially acceptable, and thanks to changes in the law people now have more opportunities to gamble.”

The 2005 liberalisation of gambling laws has been blamed for fuelling an increase in gambling addiction.

Last year GamCare, a UK-wide charity with which RCAT works, reported a 25 per cent increase in calls to its helpline in 2007.

Dr Crawford Moodie, a researcher at the Institute for Social Marketing, believes the problem could become still worse when the economy picks up.

“I think we’ll see quite a surge after the economic climate stabilises and people feel financially more secure”, he said.

“It is like a timebomb ticking away.”

A recent report for the Gambling Commission revealed that one in 20 young people had developed a gambling problem, a situation described by the authors of the report as “an emerging public health issue”.

Dr Emanuel Moran, a specialist adviser on pathological gambling for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said at the time: “The Government is trying to deal with it with a light touch but I very much fear we are going to see a disaster with a rise in the number of gambling addicts.”

Christian groups warned earlier this year that further plans to allow fruit machines to offer far greater prizes would harm vulnerable people.

“With global recession looming, unemployment rising and disposable income falling, the Government has gone back on its earlier concern for vulnerable people in response to pressure from the gambling industry”, said a Church of England spokesman.

Related Resources