Excluding the National Lottery, the latest figures on gambling yield (amount retained by gambling operators after payment of winnings but before deduction of operating costs) stands at over £14 billion a 60% increase since 2010. One of the key elements driving this growth has been technology.
Access to gambling has never been easier. In recent years we’ve seen an explosive growth in online gambling. Your mobile phone is now a bookmaker, a bingo hall and casino in your pocket. Now you can bet on literally anything, at any time of the day and at any place your device can access the internet. You can’t watch TV or scroll through social media without being bombarded by advertising from gambling operators.
Alongside the booming of the industry has been the worrying and often devastating impact of problem gambling.
The consequential harm from gambling can affect anyone. It can happen at any age, to any gender and to people from any ethnic background. The latest research is alarming.
Recent YouGov data shows that problem gambling affects nearly 3% of the UK population – that’s 1.4 million people. Millions more are negatively impacted by someone else’s gambling.
Problem gambling can lead to family break-ups, mental health problems and criminal activity to finance excessive gambling which can have a cost to employers. Tragically, the link between harmful gambling and suicide is clear. We hear heart-breaking stories in the media and solid evidence proving that nearly 1 in 5 problem gamblers had considered suicide in the past year.
There is a gap in UK based data regarding the impacts problem gambling has on the workplace. However, international data and anecdotal UK evidence suggest problem gambling can have a significant impact on employment.
The National Opinion Research Centre found that:
Trade unions, working with enlightened employers, can play an important part in tackling problem gambling in the workplace and support members along that road to recovery.
Much in the same way that unions have been a key driver in reducing the stigma around mental health in the workplace, unions can play a similar role in reducing the stigma around problem gambling. This will allow the gambler the space they need to reach out and get the support when they need it, without the fear of judgment.
We can also try to understand the impacts that gambling related harm can have on the individual, their families and colleagues. We can be there to support them through their journey.
Wales TUC has produced a toolkit for reps to help them support members faced with the impacts of problem gambling. It aims to help reps recognise who is at risk and what the impacts can be. It offers practical advice and support about signposting to further help.
The National Gambling Helpline provides confidential information, advice and support for anyone affected by gambling problems in England, Scotland and Wales.
You can call their helpline 24 hours a day on 0808 8020 133