Tackling Gambling Harms

Tackling Gambling Harms

17th May 2023

You can help us tackle gambling harms in Scotland

by Billi Allen-Mandeville, from the CAS Gambling Support Service.

This article was first published in the Herald on 13 May 2023.

Most people associate gambling with the occasional 'flutter'on horse-racing, buying a lottery ticket, or having a few goes on a fruit machine in their local pub.

That’s quite an old-fashioned view though. Over the last 25 years, as we’ve all moved to communicate and socialise online, so has the gambling industry. Today at the press of a button, everyone has access to whole worlds of possibility, of winning and chasing highs.

Of course not everyone who gambles develops a problem. But for some the temptation to escape negative experiences or feelings can be over-whelming. And with the cost of living crisis, the possibility of making that escape is ever more appealing. Just one more bet – just one more.

I want to tell you about our Gambling Support Service (GSS), run by the Citizens Advice network, which works to raise awareness of, and reduce the effects of, gambling harms in Scotland.

We support people who are facing gambling harms such as debt, eviction, homelessness, relationship breakdowns, mental health illnesses, drug and alcohol addictions. These harms can be the cause, or the result, of their gambling - or both.

Here are a couple of our clients’ stories. One says, “I was finding it difficult to pay my bills and was being threatened with eviction. I went along to Citizens Advice, and they went through my bank statements with me - it turned out I was spending up to £300 every day on online slot machines. Because I was gambling, I was at risk of being declared bankrupt. I wanted to try and change.”

Another says, “The turning point for me was when I couldn’t afford to buy a magazine for my grandchild. I realised I’d spent about £4,000 gambling. I was spending 4 to 5 hours every day on online sites and casinos instead of doing my food shop. I was suffering from depression, and instead of making me feel better, gambling made it worse. Since I was referred to GSS, I’ve cut gambling out of my life, I have money in my bank account, and I was able to afford to take my grandchild out for bonfire night.”

As you can see, the effects of gambling harms are often hidden. Many of our clients haven’t spoken to anyone about their gambling because they fear what people will think; that they won’t understand. Their loved ones may not even know about their problem.

We know it can be scary to talk about money, loss, and gambling. But we work to help break the stigma, so that people reach out for help before they reach crisis point.

But at GSS we don’t just give advice to individual gamblers. We also provide free training on gambling support to anyone who works with the public, whether that be a charity, a church, a college or a shop. In other words, we share our own expertise in gambling support with others so that they too can offer help to those who need it.

So, if you work for an organisation that serves the public and you would like to arrange these free training sessions, email us at gamblingsupport@scottishcabs.org.uk. The more people we have working together, the better we can take gambling harms out of the lives of people in our communities.