Tackling Gambling Stigma: share your story

The team at tacklinggamblingstigma.com is inviting people to share their story of harms from their own or someone else’s gambling.

This would be via an informal chat with a researcher by telephone or in person at your convenience.

We are interested in people of all backgrounds and difficulties of any kind or size linked to gambling. No matter what your
story is, where you are from, or what the gambling harm has been, you are the person we want to talk to.

Full details in the flyer and infographic

Tackling Gambling Stigma Interview Infographic

Tackling Gambling Stigma Flyer


Citizens Advice Scotland: a good port of call


If you are suffering from gambling harms or affected by somebody else’s many issues may arise, differently for everybody but sharing common themes. Financial problems, mental health, criminal proceedings, unemployment, relationship and family breakdown to name a few. The first step – which many report was one of the hardest – is to seek support. This may be with a spouse or partner or trusted friend, or via a gambling support line (see the SUPPORT page); some may take the situation to their GP; some will find online forums or join a supprt group such as Gamblers Anonymous or SMART Recovery. Some may do all of these things. In the early days simply opening up and seeking support is tremendously helpful and paople often support a sense of relief.

In a perfect world, an initial approach for support would be able to signpost you to the best pathways to other services which can deal with the several post-gambling issues you have to deal with. However good a treatment plan is for you, one that helps you begin reduce urges to gamble, you may still have considerable legacy burdens to carry such as those mentioned above. Some will have less to bear, some more. One issue that often arises is that a doctor, for instance, does not have the knowledge or understanding to ensure you receive the whole-person support you need; sometimes there are unclear pathways between support options. History suggests – by the voices of lived experience – that if you try such options as those above, especially for many becoming involved in some way with others in recovery, things get better and you find what’s best for you. And, of course, for many the available services, even just one of them, may be all you need.

One particularly useful port of call, even the first place for many, is Citizens Advice. In recent years their staff and volunteers have been trained to advise people and steer them to the most appropriate services for their individual needs. They also work in communities to raise awareness of gambling harms. Included in  a news post on 31 August 2022 about their gambling-related services is:

Another key element of our service is providing advice to clients.  People come into their local CAB office for advice on a range of topics and usually people need help with more than one issue.  Our advisers provide holistic advice to people and equip them with the information they need to decide a way forward.

People who experience gambling harms may be unaware that they are affected, or they may know but are unlikely to disclose this to anyone, not even their family.  A key part of our work is trying to normalise talking about gambling harms and reduce the shame and stigma that is associated with it.  The more that we can raise awareness and train staff to understand the signs, the more people we can help by signposting or referring them onto specialist services who support people affected by gambling harms.

You can read the whole piece here.





In upcoming posts we’ll look at some of the issues arising from financial harms and gambling, particularly in the light of the cost of living crisis. By its nature, financial issues will also involve other burdens people may carry such as with respect to relationships, employment, mental health and the justice sytem.

That Horrible Word ‘Addiction’: how and why we use it

The word ‘addiction’ is itself bursting at the seams with negative connotations. It can evoke all sorts of uncaring ignorant stereotypes. It is a stigmatising word. But we use it carefully on this site as explained here.

The word is used widely in everyday life, medical terminology, the media and by many who fall prey to the intensely distressing mental health disorder which has yet to find a generally agreed more neutral name.

Rethink Addiction, the Australian organisation discusses the issue.

It is worth remarking that the page the above is taken from is headed with:

Addiction is one of Australia’s most misunderstood health conditions.

And yet today this health issue is shunted out from health services and some Third Sector organisations claiming to support mental health (which obviously is a huge part of health generally). There are some mental health organisations which do not even mention addiction. This may be a sign of far bigger, institutionally embedded sources of stigmatising  one of the most pervasive and serious ill health issues than the inadequate language we use.

Would You Join Us as a Director/Consultant/Advisor?

Don’t panic! If the idea of becoming a director/consultant/advisor sounds no-no, weird, downright not for you, please read on.

Martin and Adrian are currently the only two directors of The Machine Zone and we’re looking to get more people on board who represent interests we’ve only  little or no experience in.

You can give as little or as much time as fits with you.

You’d not be expected to do much at all! Maybe an online meeting every couple of months. Your ideas and experience are what are valuable. We’re fully aware that the two of us alone don’t begin to represent important parts of the work being done to prevent gambling harms. Or, see how it goes and maybe take on a bit more.

You may be in recovery or active in a recovery organisation, someone who’s interested in child protection. someone who feels they’re not being given a voice. You may be Andy Capp or Flo (Yes! Oldies welcome!), a professor or a student. We even welcome politicians cool. Perhaps you work in jobs that deal with gambling harms or the justice system or the health and social care system. Maybe you’d just like to show off to your mates by saying you’re a director!


As they say in all Special Offers, absolutely no commitment!

Join us on Tuesday and bale out on Wednesday if you like.

All we ask is that you have a genuine desire to help reduce gambling harms. How you think this is best done may well be open to disagreement which is spot on. We aren’t here to preach ‘the right way’ but to represent as many views and ideas as possible.

When we started out more than five years ago we were pretty clueless about running a company. We’re still learning every day. But the nuts and bolts, the bureaucratic requirements such as filling in forms every now and then for ‘them up there’ are simple and straightforward. Having to send accounts to Companies House and HMRC is a cinch because we only deal with a vey few £££ coming in and out.

The Machine Zone started out after Martin met Adrian (who knew nothing about gambling). Martin had been devastated by Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. We began to work with others to campaign to get the stakes on these machines in bookies reduced from £100 to £2. We set up a website Beat the Fix as part of this. In 2020 Martin got in touch with a film company and through thick and thin a brilliant film was made. One Last Spin has received great reviews and is being used first in online events not only in Scotland but abroad. We are determined soon to get the film out into community venues throughout Scotland. (Oh, even if you don’t want to be a director if you know of any local places that may be interested let us know!). To continue distributing the film we’re working with partner organisations and working on raising any funds needed.

We’ve also set up the Gambling Watch Scotland website which is pretty basic just now so we’re hoping to develop it.

You can read a sort of tongue-in-cheek history of The Machine Zone at Machine Zone History


If you would like to consider joinining us drop us a line at martinpaterson07@gmail.com or adrian@gamblingwatchscotland.org.uk

We would love to hear from you. We’ll answer any questions you have. Meanwhile, here are some details about what becoming a director entails, including the legal bits which in practice are formalities. If (as if!) we receive funding you’d have to agree to ‘sign off’ anything it’s spent on. If the company goes belly up for some reason a director is liable to pay the sum of one pound. For us, your directorship is essentially to act as advisor, consultant (e.g. about lived experience) and to bring new ideas, and maybe expand our reach with your own networks. (On the other hand if you’re a whizz at web design or fundraising you’d be our heroes!).

There is more here about becoming a director. Becoming a Director at The Machine Zone

In Memoriam: Ryan Myers

When the Big Step walk between Manchester and Liverpool ended at Anfield, Martin Paterson lit a candle at Everton FC’s memorial wall in memory of Ryan Myers and all who have lost their lives to gambling. Ryan’s father and mother, John and Alison and sister Hannah were on the walk. 

ITV News covered the walk. Along with John’s very moving interview, James Grimes, the Founder of the Big Step, is interviewed.


It seems fitting that the walk ended at Ryan’s beloved Anfield where a shrine marks the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans in the Hillsborough disaster. Decades of struggle by bereaved families with the support of very many ordinary people have unveiled the truth. Against all the odds the Hillsborough Justice Campaign fought to reveal police corruption, overturn coroners’ judgments and challenge the pernicious narratives from some media and politicians that the disaster was the fans’ responsibility. Despite this, as yet the legal system has failed so far to hold key individuals to account.

Still, the power of ordinary people to fight injustice when they come together is remarkable. By refusing to bow to powerful voices and institutions, history shows repeatedly that power also grows from the ground upwards. The Big Step walk commemorated Ryan while continuing its contribution to reframing the narratives around gambling harms.


As the walk progressed and afterwards, those who took part were sharing on social media the immense warmth and friendship they shared.

Martin (pictured centre) with John and Alison said, “Had a great time away with the Big Step meeting some new friends sadly due to harm and suicide.”

The expressions of Love and solidarity show the power that takes people through adversity, suffering and loss, and the power that sustains struggle against injustice.

Such Love is a memorial to Ryan and some sustenance for his parents, Alison and John, and sister Hannah, and all who have lost a loved one to gambling.


After a White Paper… Time Frame

A green paper may be circulated to chosen consultees for commentary, amendemnets etc. A White Paper is agreed within government across departments such as the Treasury and may form the basis of a proposed Bill. The White Paper allows for further consultation and amendment before reaching a final version of a Bill.

According to the site whereyoustand.org,

A Bill is a proposal for a new law, or a proposal to change an existing law, that is presented for debate before Parliament. Bills are introduced in either the House of Commons or House of Lords for examination, discussion and amendment. When both Houses have agreed on the content of a Bill it is then presented to the reigning monarch for approval (known as Royal Assent). Once Royal Assent is given a Bill becomes an Act of Parliament and is law. All pass through the following stages before they can become Law.

First Reading authorises the printing of a Bill. The public may buy copies of all Common Bills published by The Stationery Office (TSO) either online from the

TSO Online Bookshop Bookshop, www.tsoshop.co.uk
Blackwell Bookshop,
Cardiff University Union,
Senghennydd Road, Cardiff, CF24 4AZ
Tel: 029 2034 0673
Email: cardiff@blackwell.co.uk

Second Reading: Main opportunity to debate the Bill.
Committee Stage: Various Committees undertake a clause by clause analysis of the Bill
with powers to make amendments.
Report Stage: A further chance to consider amendments and other changes may be made.
Third Reading: Final form of the Bill has to be agreed by the House before going to:
House of Lords: Here the Bill passes through the same stages mentioned above, except that a A Committee of the whole House of Lords is almost invariably involved in the
Committee Stage.
All amendments are considered and may be moved at third reading.
Amendments Passed By The Lords have to be mutually agreed by both Houses of Parliament.
Following this agreement, Royal Assent is obtained and the Bill becomes an Act in force on a date specified in one of its clauses, or subject to regulations issued by the Secretary of State at a later date.


If this is correct, quite some time elapses between the publication of a White Paper and an Act coming into law. And when the Act has entered into law, it comes into force on a date specified in one of its clauses, or subject to regulations issued by the Secretary of State at a later date.

Reaching People’s Lives

Touching People in ‘Ordinary’ Life

Martin from the company he founded, The Machine Zone which seeks to raise awareness of gambling harms through the arts, seen here at Dundee Repertory Theatre’s dark comedy about gambling. The play’s co-written by somebody who’s spent 20 years working in the industry. Read about The Bookies here.

Proudly wearing his Big Step hoodie, Martin’s a veteran of the Big Step walks in Scotland, most recently walking between Edinburgh and Glasgow, visiting football grounds along the way.

The Big Step itself is a living art form. Like Ernest Hemingway said of writing, it’s one per cent inspiration and 99% perspiration. And blisters and aching legs! It marches through communities of every kind, raising awareness and making friends along the way.



Most of us don’t spend our lives attending to public health messages. We’re busy watching TV and films, listening to and making music, reading, enjoying company, maybe going to see a play.

So it’s in these sorts of things we learn and think about life. Heartbreaks, family drama, the many ‘social issues’ of our time, our happiness and sorrow. Everything.

Artists of every type have been dealing with these things for thousands of years. When it comes to something like mental health or addiction you’ll find it all in soaps, novels, paintings, songs, plays, human interest stories in newspapers and so on. When a writer like Jimmy McGovern writes a play about gambling it reaches millions, gets people thinking and talking together. An organisation like Fast Forward uses theatre and film to educate thousands of young people.

More modest in scale, we’ve produced a film One Last Spin. By a great stroke of good fortune the singer-songwriter and musician Amanda Lehmann recorded a song with the same title as the film after watching it. She continues to promote the issue with radio interviews. You can read about how the song came into being here.

The Arts are a PART of It All

Things like harms from gambling and drugs such as alcohol  are very complex issues. There are no ‘silver bullets’  to find soulutions. There are important things happening at ‘higher levels’ in statutory services such as Public Health and the NHS, professional medical associations, academic research, politics, lobbying for much more and better treatment, and lobbying for independent evaluation and design in education. 

There is brilliamt work being done at grassroots level – from a few individuals to those who have formed important organisations.

The Third Sector plays a big part such as Scotland Reducing Gambling Harms which has given us immense support. 

With so much involvement from so many places, we’re not advocating the arts as a ‘cure-all’. Far from it. There are many long-established movements working to integrate the arts and health. Our own work is infinitessimal in comparison.



A Wish

Sculptors, painters, scriptwriters, poets, musicians, songwriters, novelists…

You are invited to put your souls into exploring gambling. Dostoevsky did it with his novel, The Gambler. You can too!

Two Opposing Narratives: gambling harms

Brass tacks: a reasonable summary of demands to address gambling harms

The above is from Gambling with Lives new website. While they have done so much to raise awareness of the horrible connections between gambling and suicide, their five points are broadly shared across all sectors which campaign to reduce harms.

It is important to see product design at the top of the list. The idea of harmful products. Probably known to many, the classic book by Natasha Dow Schull based on many years of research among the players and businesses of Las Vegas casinos is titled Addiction by Design.

Many other researchers, independent of industry influence, have provided evidence of how digital gambling devices are designed to exploit psychological factors. This crucial element is often downplayed or simply ignored by certain stakeholders, including, of course, industry.

There is a struggle between narratives about gambling harms. There are several such narratives but each reflects two important ones

On one side is the preferred industry narrative which emphasises personal responsibility and ‘educating’ people towards ‘safe gambling’. Industry-funded education is a key method of fulfilling industry’s stated firm desire to minimise gambling harms. Industry does also promote player protection via exclusion schemes, affordanility checks and monitoring, yet the efficacy of these is not agreed by everybody, and there are regular reports of protection failures. Not unlike many industries, advertising – including micromarketing through social media – is seen to provide individuals with choice and alert them to offers and exciting new products. Sponsorship, especially in football, is claimed to support the financial wellbeing of clubs. As a whole, industry points out how many people are employed, the tax yield to the state, and how vital it is to fund animal racing. The industry warns that increased regulation will push people into ‘black markets’. Industry cites figures which purport to show a decrease in the number of what they refer to as ‘problem gamblers’. Industry opposes calls for a 1% statuary levy on profits by claiming that the charities it funds are in the best position to provide treatment, arguing that the NHS has no experience in this area. It celebrates its funding of education for young people, and sees no need for independent academic research to evaluate both the quality of such initiatives and the emphasis upon education as a prime bulwark against gambling harms.

On the other side, while some of this agenda is agreed, there are calls for much tighter work in each area. Product design and incessant marketing are stressed over ‘personal responsibility’. Here, a pubic health approach is advocated similar to that in the area of other ‘commercial determinants of health’ whereby regulation covers the whole population, bypassing any reference to individual behaviours. There is implicit in the debate a foundational difference between an ideology which stresses personal responsibility. ‘freedom’,  and minimal (nanny) state intererference, against the position that sees social, cultural and economic factors as inseparable from an individual’s life. Contributors to calls similar to Gambling with Lives demands are to be found in the establishments of medicine, psychiatry, social work, the judiciary sytem, academia, and the groundswell of organisations led by people with lived experience.

Writing a sponsored piece in Conservative Home, the Chairman (sic) of the Betting and Gaming Council, Brigid Simmons OBE. begins her article arguing against a statutory levy with the words, “Far too often emotion, instead of evidence, drives the debate around betting and gaming in the UK.” This point of view mirrors another senior BGC figure who enjoys using such phrases as ‘Sunday school prohibitionists’. There is something odd about suggesting that some of the finest brains in the UK and the world have mistake emotional outpourings for rigorous evidence. In fact, while it is possible that there are people who want to abolish gambling, calls for reform demand intelligent debate rather than blanket dismissal  of all who have identified realistic, specific recommendations for reform, each one of which is based on evidence rather than  sponsored emotional rhetoric.




One Last Spin. A Song by Amanda Lehmann

We’re very pleased to announce that Amanda Lehmann’s son One Last Spin is released today.

Just click here to listen. It’s a beautiful and poignant song to listen to rather than hear in the background, to enter into for four minutes. So if you can, get the headphones on or play through a music system. You’ll be glad you did. Laptop, tablet and phone speakers have their uses – but for music? Nah!

While the song complements our documentary film wonderfully it’s also very much a stand alone record. You’ll discover more details about the song here and here, including how it came to be written.


We won’t be producing many cd’s and covers. Those we do get manufactured will be used with media releases mainly to radio stations along with background materials about gambling harm. The song will be available to listen to online from now onwards, and a dowloadable file of the single will also be available.


The Lyrics

One Last Spin

It’s a thrill, chasing the rainbow

Will a fortune fall from the sky?

A tsunami of anticipation

Is gone in the blink of an eye

I can still rescue the day

Make these problems fly away

One last spin

Another throw of the die

I’ll make this right, today is the day, tonight is the night

Just one last spin – around and around

Every road is paved with gold

The TV beckons me on

A winner right here in my hand

The wheel is spinning my song

The clouds are closing in

I’m losing everything

Demons at my door

How do I ignore them

One last spin

Another throw of the die

I’ll make this right, today is the day, tonight is the night

Just one last spin – around and around

One last spin – around and around

Hide in the shadows

Push love away

Numbing the pain, I’m back here again

Drowning in shame

One last spin – around and around

One last spin – around and around

One last spin…

Amanda’s words about a song she wrote to express her feelings witnessing her mothers’ decline into and journey through dementia fit well with One Last Spin. Whatever contribution it makes to raising awareness, its value is for a person suffering. “ Music can be cathartic, and it is my hope that sharing my experiences and emotions in this tune may briefly hold the hands of others in similar situations and give some comfort.”

Thank you again, Amanda. You have not only given your time to creating and producing a beautiful song, you’ve also done so much more behind the scenes.

We hope that many who listen to the song will spread the word to family, friends and colleagues so that it becomes widely known and loved.