Citizens Advice South Hams is launching a new drive to help tackle gambling addiction in the county.

A survey published by charity, Gamble Aware, found 1-in10 people in the South Hams were at risk of problem gambling, representing 10.4 per cent of the county’s population at an estimated cost to the local economy of £1m.

The latest statistics show 44% of adults in Britain gambled at least once in a month in an industry worth £14.1 billion-a-year (Gambling Commission). A You Gov study quoted by Public Health England found 13 per cent of the population experienced some form of harm from their gambling.  

Around two million people in Britain are experiencing the effects of gambling harm including 300,000 people classed as pathological gamblers. Around 55,000 children are problem gamblers with millions more at risk of harm as a result of someone else’s gambling.

Citizens Advice South Hams Chief Executive, Janie Moor, said:

“Gambling now takes place across many different age groups and social classes. At Citizens Advice South Hams we’re increasingly concerned that people are turning to gambling to try and cope with increases in the cost of living.

“In addition to bookies across our towns, people are increasingly betting from home using online gaming platforms. When betting becomes addictive, we see people getting in serious financial stress and this can also cause severe problems with family relationships and mental health.”

To help address the issue of problem gambling, Citizens Advice South Hams is working with the national addiction service, GamCare, and local partners ARA to refer people for treatment. The three year project also includes a leaflet, poster and ongoing social media campaign across the county.

Janie Moore added:

“We recognise it’s very difficult for people with addictions to acknowledge their problems and come forward for help. Our advisers have received training to look for signs of problem gambling and to engage people with gambling problems or their friends and relatives in a sensitive conversation which might lead to a referral and support by ARA.”

Lindsey Taylor, ARA South West Community Champion, said:

 “We provide free and confidential information on gambling related harm, awareness training for professionals, talking therapy, affected others support, relapse prevention support and lived experience groups. This is not only for the person engaging in gambling, but also anyone affected by someone else’s gambling. Our objective is to deliver recovery and better lives, for anyone suffering from gambling related harms.

“We are delighted to be supporting this campaign. We believe Citizens Advice are best placed through their frontline work, to help provide brief interventions to individuals surrounding the impacts associated with gambling related harms.  They will be able to refer on for the correct support for anyone needing advice, support, counselling, recovery help or anything else around gambling harms.”

A national survey by Citizens Advice last year found more than three quarters of gamblers had built-up debts as result and over a third of families with children couldn’t afford essential costs such as food, rent or utility bills because of a family member’s gambling.

Gambling activity includes lotteries (including on social media), bingo, arcade games, gaming machines, sports betting, casinos and crypto or currency trading. Online gaming, which is sometimes aimed at children, can include apps which ask children for "in-game" purchases, loot boxes and skin betting.

Case study- ARA Gambling Service Community Champion Kai Mcconkey

My Name is Kai McConkey and I work for ARA Recovery for All Gambling Services. 

Gambling in a harmful way was a part of my life on and off for over 25 years. The longer I gambled, the more damaging, isolating and financially irreparable my situation seemed. 

“Gambling became a coping mechanism for every problem, stress or pressure life threw at me. Even though I knew the damage it was doing both financially and mentally, it felt impossible to escape the gambling cycle.

“I did try on several occasions to stop, but at times there seemed to be a lack of awareness, help and support available. Gambling was severely affecting my work, health, relationships and I felt alone and shameful. The more I relapsed, the more I felt I had let everyone down. I didn’t feel like I could talk to, or burden my friends and family with my issues, so continued to suffer in silence.

“Thankfully, I reached out at the start of 2020, and got support from my local counselling service who provided me with the initial support I needed straight away. I have continued to work on my recovery since then.

“What seemed like an impossible situation at times, became something I could slowly work through thanks to this support, and by opening-up and talking about my issues. There is now lots of help available for anyone suffering gambling related harms.”