Do you offer support?
We can’t offer support to individuals but our Support page contains many links to those who can.
Who has made this website?
We are The Machine Zone, a Community Interest Company operating in Scotland’s Central Belt. May sound very grand but we’re just three guys who work mainly unpaid. Im fact, we’ve donated more than £2000 of our own pocket money over the years to keep the company running). Since we started four years ago we have been mainly interested in the harms done by electronic gambling. This website with its film has bee made possible by an award from Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Healthy Minds Anti-Stigma initiative.
Why is gambling such a big deal?
For most people a flutter now and then is no big deal, and millions enjoy it. However, there is now very strong evidence that very many people are at risk of developing the severe mental illness known as addiction. In Scotland, it’s estimated that 40,000 adults are already in urgent need of support. Gambling addiction ruins lives – not only the gambler’s but maybe up to seven people close to them. This site aims to show the damage being done and tries to raise awareness about how a large number of people are suffering intensely from gambling.
Why is there so much about Stigma?
Sadly, all mental illnesses are accompanied by stigma. Stigma is a mark of shame or difference society places on people. For instance, a person with depression may be stigmatised as being weak. Addiction is one of the more severe mental illnesses and it suffers a great deal of stigma. People with this illness, for instance, may be seen as irresponsible or to blame for their condition. Stereotypes of addicts and addiction abound. This can be internalised by the sufferer who goes on to se ethemself as shameful, worthless, bad. This can lead to people hiding their problems, afraid to share with people close to them, afraid to seek help. This stigma, of course, is itself a further burden of mental and emotional distress.
Unfortunately, there is something too called ‘institutional stigma’. For example in the health field, professionals may share the general public’s attitudes and unconsciously not provide the care that every patient deserves, beyond judgmentalism. However, we blieve that all stigma can be best reduced by raising awareness. In the provision of services, mental health generally receives far less in resources than it needs. In the case of addiction, the situation is much worse, and the last decade has seen savage reductions in funding for addiction services. Where NHS provision exists, alcohol and drugs receive most attention. Gambling is lower down the list of priorities, though there are hopeful signs that things are improving.
I don't have any gambling problems nor does anyone close to me so why should I care?
Great question. There must be thousands of ‘good causes’ and hundreds of ‘big issues’ and we can’t pay attention to them all. Covid is bad enough, climate emergency, all the sufferings that come from inequality. In the case of gambling, it may help to think in terms of all addictions, the estimate that one in ten of us are addicted to something. Almost 1.7% of 11-16 year olds are classed as having serious gambling problems. Your kids may be next. Anybody may be. The rates of gambling addiction are similar to those of other mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and all need to be treated seriously with compassion and expertise.
Frontline workers in social care and health especially need awareness. They are certain to encounter people with gambling problems frequently and need to be prepared. So do we. It’s likely that in the course of life we will be called upon to support somebody close to us just as we would with any illness such as cancer, Alzheimers, the full range of mental health distress, and other addictions.
Are you anti-gambling?
Not at all! We know that millions enjoy the occasional bet. Our aim is t draw attention to the risks that go with gambling for many. These can be minimised by raising awareness, education and good support for those who run into difficulties. We also think that regulation of gambling is not presently fit for purpose, and draw attention to advertising, sports sponsorship and the design of products.
Is addiction an illness?
Addiction is a widespread serious mental illnes with estimates of one in ten UK adults being addicted to one or more substances or behaviours. The prevalence of gambling addiction has been estimated as high as 2.7% of the population (though most figures are below this). This exceeds the prevalence of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Worryingly, the figure for 11-16 year olds with serious gambling problems is almost 2%. Before, during and following periods of addiction, other mental disorders, notably depression and anxiety, are common. In some cases an existing mental health issue can make a person more likely to gamble excessively. The pressures on somebody who is in an already intense zone of suffering called addiction are amplified, and after ecovery it may take a long time to recover from the mental health consequences of addiction. Each person, though is different. For some, it is relatively easy to recover from gambling harms with no lasting consequences; others have to deal with a range of issues that may include mental health disorders,, debt, relationship breakdown prison, unemployment, lack of support and homelessness.
What treatment is available?
There are NHS clinics in England and Wales, and more are planned. No such services exist in Scotland. Most non-medical support services exist through indirect industry funding. They include GamCare. There are user-led support services such as Gamblers Anonymous and SMART Recovery. Some services provide support for affected family members, such as GamFam. A description of support services in Scotland is provided on our Support page.
Generally, despite some progress, it’s agreed that there eeds to be more services preferably funded by the NHS. At present only 3% of people with serious gambling damage receive support. Nevertheless, for people able and willing yo seek help there are many opportunities. Seeking help is a massively important first step.
Addiction often comes with a range of other problems. Depression and anxiety are likely, and your GP can help. Sadly, for many the problems can be magnified greatly by factors such as family breakdown, unemployment, large debts, precarious housing, criminal proceedings. These can be addressed separately, and support is available.
The good news is that many recover from addiction with no help or support. It’s thought that a third of people with an addiction get over it spontaneously. Others may need a low level of support, others a moderate level, and some an ongoing treatment plan involving several levels of support.
Can I contribute or get involved?
We’d love you to! Perhaps write a guest blog, send us news, let us know what we’ve missed. If you’d like to become directly involved with raising community awareness let us know. Use our contact form or email us.
How many people suffer from gambling harm?
In the UK estimates vary considerably. The lower figure suggest 0.5% of the adult population are in serious trouble with gambling. A 2020 YouGov report ha sthe figure at 2.7%. But these are general population figures which include people who never gamble and the millions who bet and gamble with very low amounts and frequency. Different sections of the population show different figures. For instance people who live in deprived communities are at greater risk. 11-16 year olds are rported to suffer at a rate of 1-9.%. The population sector which contains the most harms is male 16-25 year olds. A 2020 survey of 14 UK prisons discovered that 23% reported gambling difficulties.
In addition it is estimated that between six and ten people close to a person with gambling harms will suffer intensely too. This means that up to five million people, including children, are seriously impacted by gambling damage.
Wouldn't tighter regulation of gambling be unfair to the vast majority who enjoy gambling with no problems?
No. For people who find gambling a fun leisure activity and who always spend within their means, there should be no difference if certain features of the industry and the regulators were improved. Both the Gambling Commission and the industry are in agreement that more needs to be done to protect vulnerable adults and children. Nobody is calling for draconian restraints on gambling as a legitimate leisure activity and commercial enterprise.
What are campaigners hoping to achieve?
People campaign for different reasons and emphasise different topics. Most want to see an end to sponsorship of sport, especially football. Some want to see all advertisements on television banning, and many want much tighter regulation of social media adverts. There is a growing call for affordability checks, and some calls for a maximum weekly cap on gambling spend. There is also a strong feeling that VIP schemes should be stopped: these are individual-targeted enticements and inducements for heavy gamblers to spend more, and these inducements may consist of free sessions and other freebies. There is also a strong movement urging that some gambling products are addictive in their design and that this needs rectifying. Many campaigners, public bodies, politicians, doctors, academics, nurses, social care organisations and the churches believe that the current situation whereby education and treatment, and some research, are funded by voluntary contributions from industry, is unsatisfactory. Instead it is proposed that industry should pay a 1% compulsory levy on profits to governments who will distribute it as totally independent funding for research, education and treatment. Also growing, is momentum to make gambling be seen as a public health issue.
None of this would lessen people’s freedom to enjoy risk-free gambling.