After record demand, more gambling clinics were opened

Photograph of hands holding smartphones with gambling apps displayed on their screens

Following a record-breaking spike in referrals, NHS England is nearly doubling the number of gambling addiction clinics.

In addition to the eight facilities that are already available across the nation, seven additional ones will open this summer.

In 2022–2023, 1,389 patients were referred for gambling support, a significant increase from the 775 patients referred two years prior.

Politicians, however, have come under fire from opponents for allegedly "dragging their feet" on promised reforms to safeguard gamblers.

In a statement announcing the opening of the new clinics, NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard called gambling addiction "a cruel disease with the power to destroy people's lives.".

According to Ms. Pritchard, gambling advertisements are "bombarding" both children and adults. She also emphasized how simple it is to gamble on modern smartphones "at the touch of a button.".

The NHS decision was made in response to a coroner's finding on Thursday that a betting company could have done more to assist a gambler who committed suicide in 2021 after racking up enormous debts.

Although Betfair, the company in question, claimed to have complied with all applicable regulations at the time, it has since acknowledged that more could have been done.

The health service anticipates being able to provide cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other treatments to 3,000 patients annually once all 15 of the facilities are operational throughout England.

The seven new clinics are located in Thurrock, Essex, Blackpool, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, and Sheffield.

These are in addition to those already taking place in Telford, London, Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, and Southampton.

In London, there is a clinic dedicated to treating gaming addiction in children and adolescents.

The public health minister, Neil O'Brien, noted the "stark increase" in people seeking treatment through the NHS for gambling-related problems, noting that these problems could have a "devastating impact" on people's lives.

He claimed that the government had outlined plans to address such problems, including a pledge to enact a statutory levy to ensure that gaming companies contribute their "fair share" to treatment services.

Since the invention of the smartphone, the government's white paper, which was published in April, has significantly altered industry regulations.

A £2 maximum bet limit on online slot machines for young gamblers was one of the proposals. However, campaigners criticized the inaction on advertisements.

The charity Gambling with Lives, whose strategy director Will Prochaska said the clinics "couldn't come at a more pertinent moment, while gambling advertising lures more people into harm," described the new addiction facilities as "heartening.".

Matt Zarb-Cousin, the director of Clean Up Gambling, also applauded the announcement on Sunday, saying: "Gambling is an addiction like any other, and 86 percent of the profits from online gambling come from the 5 percent who are addicted or at risk.

"It's crucial that treatment access is normalized and that people are aware of local NHS resources if they suffer harm from gambling, which is what the current industry's business model is based on. ".

According to the Lib Dems, the Conservatives were not doing enough to protect gamblers in light of recent reports of record-high addiction referrals.

Gambling harms affect far too many people, according to health advocate Daisy Cooper MP.

"The Conservatives have long promised reforms to safeguard them, but they're taking their time.

"These new figures must serve as a wake-up call to ministers, urging them to act immediately in order to prevent further loss of life. ".

You can visit if any of the problems mentioned in this article have affected you. the Action Line of the BBC. for guidance and support.

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