Last year, around 1,400 people were referred to NHS England for help with gambling addiction, which was up by a third on the previous year.
There is no denying that gambling addiction is a sizeable social problem in the United Kingdom and the aforementioned figure only relates to those who were willing to seek professional help from the NHS in England.
Many people with suspect betting habits choose not to address their demons, but Safer Gambling Week 2023 aims to raise awareness of the warning signs and what to be mindful of when assessing your own or a loved one’s gambling activity.
Below, we’ve picked out some of the most notable red flags to be aware of, plus details on how to react should any of these warning signs apply to you, a relative or a friend.
1. Neglecting bills
One of the warning signs of gambling harm is the neglect of financial responsibilities, particularly when it comes to ignoring household bills.
Individuals experiencing issues with gambling may find themselves prioritising their gambling activities over essential financial obligations. This could lead to late payments, accumulating debts and a downward spiral into financial instability.
2. Dipping into savings
Another concerning indicator is the act of dipping into savings for the purposes of gambling. When someone starts withdrawing from their savings account to fund their gambling habits, a reality check is required.
This behaviour jeopardises future financial security and is a clear sign that gambling is impacting their ability to maintain a healthy financial standing.
3. Keeping gambling activity secret from family
Secrecy surrounding gambling activities can be a red flag yet 75 per cent of people with problematic habits feel unable to discuss their issues with family or friends, according to GambleAware.
When a person goes to great lengths to keep their gambling activity hidden, it suggests a recognition of the potential harm or negative consequences associated with their behaviour.
Open communication within the family is crucial in addressing such issues and seeking support.
4. Selling items specifically for gambling funds
Selling personal possessions to fund gambling is a drastic step that underscores the severity of the issue.
When someone resorts to selling items specifically to finance their gambling, it signifies a level of desperation and a lack of control over their impulses. Addressing the root causes and seeking help becomes imperative in such cases.
5. Lying about the amount or frequency of your gambling
A common defence mechanism for people with problematic gambling habits is to lie about the extent and frequency of their activity.
They may downplay the severity of their activities to themselves and others, masking the true impact on their life. Recognising and addressing this denial is a crucial step towards seeking assistance and making positive changes.
6. Gambling to help forget problems
Using gambling as a coping mechanism to forget or escape from life's challenges is a dangerous pattern.
When individuals turn to gambling as a way to numb themselves from problems, it often exacerbates existing issues and leads to a harmful cycle.
Seeking healthier coping mechanisms and professional support is vital in breaking this destructive pattern.
7. Stealing from relatives or friends
One of the most distressing manifestations of gambling harm is when a victim resorts to stealing from family or friends to fuel their addiction.
This behaviour not only highlights the financial strain that can be caused by gambling but also the potential strain on personal relationships.
Any such conduct is a clear indication that the individual is in real need of intervention and support.
How to seek help
Should any of the above apply to you or someone you know, there are several charities and institutions you can turn to for support, advice and information.
As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, the healthcare system expects to be able to treat up to 3,000 people a year across 15 gambling treatment clinics.
These facilities provide access to psychiatrists and psychologists who specialise in problematic gambling treatment. Patients can self-refer to an NHS gambling clinic and may ask their GP for information on services in their area.
For more immediate action, independent charity GamCare offer a live chat service as well as the National Gambling Helpline (GB: 0808 8020 133, NI: 08000 886 725), whilst also providing recovery tools such as blocking software and money management advice.
Jamie Casey is a former sports journalist who now provides editorial expertise in the betting industry. His work has appeared in prestigious publications such as Sky Sports, The Irish Times, RTE, FourFourTwo and many more.