Reino Unido: Jogadores problemáticos – ninguém sabe quantos existem ou qual o custo para o Estado

The government has no idea how many problem gamblers are being treated by the NHS or how much their addiction is costing, prompting concern from leading charities that people...

The government has no idea how many problem gamblers are being treated by the NHS or how much their addiction is costing, prompting concern from leading charities that people in need of help are slipping through the net.

The Department of Health also conceded, in response to questions from the Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, that the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and the culture secretary, Karen Bradley, had never discussed the issue.

Watson said: “We know there is a growing epidemic of gambling addiction, so it’s shocking that the government has no idea how many people are receiving treatment, or how much it’s costing. It’s time we started seeing gambling addiction as a mental health problem, not a moral failing, and made sure that proper NHS provision is in place for it.”

The Home Office told Watson that it did not carry any information about the effect that gambling addiction has on “acquisitive” crimes, such as burglary or theft.

The admissionscome amid widespread concern about gambling addiction and its impact on society. While alcohol and drug addiction are treated as distinct areas for attention by Public Health England, gambling is not.

There is just one specialist NHS gambling clinic for problem gamblers in England and Wales, in west London, which is funded not by the government but by gambling charity GambleAware.

survey released earlier this year by the Gambling Commission warned that the number of people with a serious habit had risen to 430,000, with a further 1.6 million at risk of developing a problem.

Labour, which oversaw the deregulation of gambling when in government in 2005, has launched a review of NHS treatment of addiction, part of a broader series of policy proposals that includes a crackdown on bookmakers and online casinos.

The party has pledged to introduce a compulsory levy on gambling companies to fund treatment and backed cutting the maximum stake on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals to £2, amid a government review of the machines.

Watson has said the party would explore a ban on gambling companies advertising on football shirts in an effort to address the normalisation of sports betting among children.

“Labour’s review will ask the questions the government is failing to ask, so that the next Labour government can act to give people whose lives are blighted by gambling addiction the treatment they need,” said Watson.

In the government’s response to Watson, the health minister Steve Brine said the Health Survey for England in 2015 showed 0.9% of over-16s were classified as problem gamblers.

He suggested that services provided by the IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) programme, which started in 2008, could potentially treat “common mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety which problem gamblers may present with”.

He said there were a range of service available for problem gamblers, details of which were on the NHS Choices website. He added that although the secretaries of state had not met, their officials had.

But Marc Etches, the chief executive of industry-funded GambleAware, warned that gambling addiction was still not being taken seriously enough as a health issue.

“There is not enough problem gambling treatment,” he said. “The services GambleAware funds are by and large the only services out there and when you look at the number of people those take care of, it’s less than 2% of the 430,000-odd people we understand are problem gamblers.”

Etches, who has backed calls for a compulsory levy to fund treatment, added: “I don’t think it’s good enough … a state that licenses and legitimises gambling should also recognise that there is a consequence, a harm that arises.

“The state has a role and to that extent it’s a shared responsibility with businesses. The health community, including government and opposition, need to up the ante and improve public discourse around this need.”

The government does not carry figures on the cost to the NHS of gambling addiction, but a report by thinktank the IPPR and GambleAware found the total cost to UK taxpayers could be as high as £1.2bn, including mental health provision, police intervention and homelessness.

The industry’s income from gamblers is growing, according to figures released last week from the Gambling Commission, reaching £13.7bn per year due to a rise in online gambling.

Simon Thompson, the chief executive of GamCare, the support organisation for problem gamblers which operates the national gambling helpline, said: “We would welcome collaboration with the NHS, driving sustainability for our current infrastructure and bringing problem/compulsive gambling and gambling-related harm up the public health agenda.”

The Department of Health said anyone whose health was being affected by their gambling should see their GP and that the NHS provided specialist services for problem gamblers who needed support.

Source: The Guardian