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Gambling as a public health issue toolkit

Gambling is a subject which is increasingly interesting public health teams. The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board published a paper in December 2016 on gambling related harm as a public health issue.

This toolkit provides examples of the materials that can assist in developing this expanding area of work.

We have published a briefing paper for local authorities and local public health providers (in England and Wales) setting out a rationale for gambling harm being treated as a public health issue.

Problem gambling is less visible than other addictions such as alcohol and drugs but it is:

  • Associated with a range of other addictions and health related issues. It is important that a gambling related problem is diagnosed and treated at the same time as other issues. 
  • also likely to affect not just the individuals concerned but those around them, whether that’s the family who find themselves without enough money for the week’s essentials or the partner who suffers abuse.

Evidence indicates that particular groups are more vulnerable to gambling related harm than others. Examples include those with mental health issues, homeless people, those with other addictive behaviours and those in areas of multiple deprivation and immigrants. (This is not a comprehensive list.)

Public Health England (Yorkshire and Humberside) held a gambling masterclass looking at the different ways in which problem gambling and public health relate to each other. The presentations and
associated documents are available on their website.

Research in Leeds City Council discovered the following:

  • At least 13 relevant Leeds services able to provide some advice and guidance on problem gambling including generic services (eg. Citizens Advice) , targeted support groups and specialist addictions and recovery services 
  • However there was a lack of join-up on ‘gambling related support’ which contrasts with strong integration of support/referrals networks across other vulnerable group needs in Leeds
  • Support services regularly work with clients affected by gambling related harm – these are often ‘co-morbid’ with other challenges (eg. alcohol or drug addiction) and recovery support
  • The research also revealed that there was a lack any screening or assessment tools for gambling-related harm in the vast majority of agencies. It was also very rare for clients to self-declare a gambling issue.

In Brighton and Hove Public Health contributed significantly in the development of a Local Area Profile, or heat map, to identify social groups and geographic locations where gambling risk/vulnerability is greatest. 

In Tower Hamlets the Public Health team intervened in the previous consultation on their Statement, recognising the following as a part of their submission:

‘For health and social care professionals, and even the family and friends of at risk or problem gamblers, the challenge of problem gambling is that it is not easily detectable. It is often described as the ‘hidden addiction’. Problem gamblers are far more likely to present with financial, health and relationship issues before an addiction to problem gambling is recognised.’    

Additional reading