Health Service Focus

16.01.20

NHS mental health director demands urgent gambling action

The director of NHS mental health, Claire Murdoch, has penned a written plea to the heads of top gambling firms, urging them to take action on improving betting-related ill health.

Further pressure has been put on gambling companies to take responsibility for their actions following reports that they continue to persuade losing betters into betting more.

Reports have emerged highlighting concerns that firms are offering special treatment and free bets to people who regularly lose large amounts of money.

New gambling addiction clinics have been opened as part of a £2.3bn package of measures to tackle addiction, set out in the NHS Long Term Plan to try and improve betting-related ill health.

27 out of 44 top football clubs in England are sponsored by gambling companies, and recent games in the FA Cup third round have been streamed by gambling firms asking for fans to place a bet in order to watch the game.

In the letter to industry chiefs today (Jan 16) Claire Murdoch called for immediate restriction for bets placed by credit cards, banning the use of so called ‘VIP experiences’ and the end of live ‘bet to view’ game streaming.

NHS estimates show around 400,000 people have a serious gambling problem in England, building up debts and affecting mental health among gamblers.

NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch said: 

“The links between the sporting industry and gambling are deeply disturbing, and the tactics used by some firms are shameful.

“It is high time sporting bodies get back to their roots and start focussing on fans and families enjoying watching their heroes play, rather than allowing firms to hijack sport in pursuit of profit.

“Our NHS Long Term Plan will see 14 gambling clinics there for people across the country as part of our annual £2.3 billion investment boost to mental health services, but the NHS cannot be expected to put out fires caused by other parts of society playing with matches, which is why we need the gambling industry to up its game.”

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