Record numbers of gambling addicts were hospitalised in the NHS last year, figures reveal, amid calls for the £2 cap on stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals to be brought forward.
Data released for the first time reveals more than 100 people were admitted because their “pathological” gambling addiction was so severe they needed hospital treatment.
It represents a rise of 50 per cent in just a year, and is a dramatic increase from the handful treated in 2000 when the World Health Organisation (WHO) first recognised gambling disorder as a medical condition.
Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and founder of the NHS’s only problem gambling clinic, said it showed the “prevalence” of gambling disorder linked to severe mental ill health was rising within society.
“Ensuring there’s enough mental health provision to deal with those with a serious addiction is vital, if we’re to treat people before they reach crisis. It is also vital we prevent people succumbing to a gambling addiction in the first place,” she said.
“The data shows gambling disorder occurs in conjunction with severe and enduring mental illness such as severe depression, anxiety or psychosis.”
It comes as Philip Hammond faces a growing political revolt by leading Tories with all party support to legislate for the £2 cap on the stakes on fixed odds betting terminals in his budget – or face a potential wrecking amendment being forced into the finance bill.
More than 30 MPs and peers have backed the demand to cut the maximum stake from £100 including ex-cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Forsyth, Dr Sarah Wollaston, Conservative chair of the health select committee, and Tory donor Lord Chadlington.
The government committed in May to cut the stake “to reduce the risk of gambling-related harm” but with potential tax revenues of more than £400m, the Treasury signalled a delay until 2020 to allow the betting industry time to prepare.
The politicians however point to a study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) which showed the Treasury could actually make up to £132m from the move through gamblers turning to other products and higher taxes on other bets.
The move is also backed by Tom Watson, deputy Labour leader, Vince Cable, the LibDem leader, the SNP and crossbenchers including businessman and The Apprentice presenter Lord Sugar and Baroness Howe, wife of former deputy Tory leader Geoffrey Howe.
Figures suggest that in the UK 1.4 per cent of all gamblers become problem gamblers, whereas 11.5 per cent of regular FOBT users go on to become problem gamblers.
“Crucially, in our country an estimated two people commit suicide in connection with gambling every working day,” say the politicians.
The rise in those needing hospital treatment is paralleled by calls to Gamcare’s helpline, up 30 per cent in four years to 30,000 last year, freephone 0808 8020133.
It is estimated 300,000 people in Britain have symptoms of gambling disorder, most of whom are men, with another 540,000 at “moderate” risk.
Lord Chadlington said: “The government needs to act urgently and pay real attention to the impacts of gambling-related harm.”
Source: The Telegraph