NHS Northern Gambling Service welcomes drive for more responsible online gambling

Leading gambling addiction specialist welcomes proposals to reduce online gambling risks

A leading gambling addiction specialist has welcomed a report from the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group calling for stake and deposit limits to be introduced on online gambling products.

This report has been published during Responsible Gambling Week 2019. The recently-launched NHS Northern Gambling Service, run by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LYPFT), is taking this opportunity to shine a light on the harms that can come from gambling addiction.

The NHS Northern Gambling Service launched in September 2019. It is now providing support to many people with gambling addiction problems across the north of England.

Matthew GaskellMatthew Gaskell (pictured), Consultant Psychologist and Clinical Lead for the NHS Northern Gambling Service, said: “I very much welcome the drive to reduce harm from online gambling – putting more responsible legislation in place.

“I believe it is wrong to suggest that if you have an addiction then you are irresponsible. This increases the stigma and shame people with addiction problems feel, which makes it harder for them to come forward and get help.

“I want to see more responsibility from gambling operators, more responsible advertising, responsible lending and access to credit, as well as better legislation.

“Responsible gambling will be better achieved with a serious and collective effort to protect the young and vulnerable from harm. It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the impact that gambling addiction can have on families and individuals.

“The Northern Gambling Service supports people every day who’ve fallen victim to the dangers of gambling. For many, their lives have been almost destroyed by an addiction that shows no sign of declining in prevalence.

“The chances of recovery from addictions like problem gambling can be very good with proper treatment. I often see people make good sustained recoveries when they seek help. Therefore I encourage anyone struggling with this issue to come forward so they can get the help they need.”

Two people affected by gambling addiction are Nathan Barnes (27) and Joe (42) both from Leeds who are now both fortunately in a position to keep their addiction at bay and have worked hard to get their lives back on track. For both of them, it’s been a long journey to get to this point and it hasn’t come without sacrifices.

Nathan’s story

Nathan talks about how his addiction began: “I remember putting my first £20 note in the fixed odds betting terminal (FOBT) and, as many gamblers can attest to, number 22 came up which was the only number that wasn’t covered! I felt absolutely furious, absolutely empty.

“Then the chase came. Suddenly a full month of my wage was in the machine with nothing to show for it. Already I was plotting my revenge against the bookies. I went home, took a £300 payday loan with 1,200% interest, and started plotting schemes, researching algorithms and ‘insider information’ to get even with the dastardly bookies.

“To cut a long story short; after seven expensive years, three bad debt credit cards, a high interest credit union overdraft, a standard overdraft, four payday loans and £4,500 of tuition loans, I found myself sleeping on my little brother’s floor.”

For Nathan, recovery came after a wakeup call at work when one of the customers at the gym he was working at told him that his reason for going to the gym every day was because he had a terminal illness and was trying to prolong his life. Nathan started to see things differently at that point and put everything into perspective: “It was after that on 1 May 2018 that I vowed never to gamble again, and confessed everything to my family and friends. I also vowed to my new partner that I would never gamble again and that has been absolutely crucial in my recovery.

“The Northern Gambling Service would have helped me tremendously in terms of access to quality services to help deal with my conditions, thoughts and concerns. It’s wonderful that the NHS is now investing in treating problem gamblers. Hopefully now the term ‘Gambling addict’ is taken much more seriously.”

Watch Nathan’s video story here:


Joe’s story (Joe is not his real name)

Joe vividly remembers his first bet on the Grand National with his dad, but apart from this he didn’t really gamble until university. He explains how his enjoyment of gambling started and then began to spiral out of control: “The more we talk about gambling addiction, the better. It just started as such a buzz, but from there it was a gradual progression – I was becoming more and more hooked into gambling. Eventually, I got to the point where any time I could potentially gamble, I would.”

There was a fruit machine in Joe’s Student’s Union bar, with a top jackpot of £200. Joe adds: “Gambling was all I really thought about by then. I remember that one day, I went to the bank and withdrew £200 in pound coins. I proceeded to spend it all on that one fruit machine. Looking back now, I can’t see how I thought it was sensible – within an hour, I had lost all that money.”

Joe continued and kept withdrawing £50 per day even well into his overdraft. “Even though I didn’t have any money coming in, I kept gambling – I was convinced that I could win the money back and was living on hardly anything. Towards the end of my time at uni I couldn’t afford to pay my rent and as a result I left without receiving my qualification.”

Joe’s addiction continued well into his adult and working life, affecting his family, friends, relationships and livelihood and it’s just one of so many examples of the challenges people have to deal with when addicted to gambling.

Speaking about the NHS Northern Gambling Service, Joe added: “The new services being delivered by the NHS couldn’t come soon enough: If I’d have been able to find support like this on my doorstep it would have been a big help, as trying to understand what’s out there can be tough for most people at first. It’s great that the service will be working to raise awareness of the risks around gambling too, and how this can impact on your future. As I said, the more we talk about it, the better.”

Watch Joe’s video story here:


More about the NHS Northern Gambling Service

Covering the whole of the north of England, the NHS Northern Gambling Service is set up to provide specialist addiction therapy and recovery to people affected by gambling addiction, as well as those with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and suicidal feelings. The service also provides intervention to people close to those with gambling addiction, such as family, partners, and carers.

The clinical team at the service is made up of psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, and mental health nurses. There is also access to experts by experience, who have recovered from gambling addiction.

The NHS Northern Gambling Service accepts referrals from health and care professionals as well as members of the public.

People can:

Or find out more about the service including finding the brave stories of people affected by gambling addiction at www.leedsandyorkpft.nhs.uk/our-services/northern-gambling-service.