The basic question is: what proportion of gamblers become compulsive or problem gamblers? No one knows the exact answer, but such research as has been done indicates a figure of around 2 per cent may be at risk. That is not a lot, but it is enough. Such people need help, and who better to start it than the gaming industry itself?
British casinos have now taken a first step with the publication of a useful little leaflet on the dangers of gambling, entitled The Risks of the Game. This is available, discreetly displayed, in every casino in the land. The opening section, called "Calculating the Risks", states, entirely correctly: "Gambling is fun, an exciting form of entertainment which in the environment of a casino provides a very enjoyable experience."
It then warns that a small number of people can lose control, so that gambling may dominate their life. A gambler with a problem may want to stop and try to go it alone, but this is unlikely to be successful. Such people, the leaflet adds, need help. It then explains that the casino understands their problem and can refer the gambler to professional advice. Most important, it lists the phone numbers of organisations such as Gamblers' Anonymous (24-hour helpline 0171-384 3040).
This service marks a significant step forward for the gaming industry. It moves the casinos from their previous position of denying the problem really existed, then to admitting that it might be there but was none of their business, and finally to the start of a new phase of offering active help in meeting it.
You might argue that the casinos' new policy is merely one of enlightened self-interest - it helps their own customers, and at the same time works to gain wider public and political support. But you might also concede that it is a very constructive action, which compares well with that of other gaming industries round the world.Reuse content