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Beat the Odds
Gambling problems: the next big challenge for substance misuse services?

August 2015


There has been much discussion in recent years about whether excessive gambling is now presenting us with a public health challenge similar to that presented by the misuse of alcohol and other substances. We are therefore very pleased to present our own contribution to that debate, in the form of the enclosed research report undertaken for Alcohol Concern Cymru by the University of Roehampton and the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales.

Staff working in frontline services know that problems of misuse, overuse or addiction often come together – people may be using two or more substances, or using one misuse habit to cope with the consequences of another, and that mix will often include alcohol and gambling.

This report is a multi-discplinary review of the evidence on the relationship between alcohol consumption and gambling. It highlights current and emerging issues, and also shows up the big gaps in our knowledge – gaps that we will have to fill if we want to minimise harm and provide proper support to people.

Amongst the key points of the report are:

· People who drink more often are more likely to gamble; and people who take part in more than one form of gambling are more likely to be binge drinkers. However, the nature of any cause and effect is not clear

· Online gambling is the fastest growing part of the betting industry. Studies suggest that this type of gambling is often done when people are drinking, but there is a real lack of research into this

· As in the case of alcohol, there are big concerns about the impact of gambling marketing on young and vulnerable people – especially online promotions

· Alcohol slows our reactions and reduces our inhibitions. It’s not surprising, therefore, that international research has identified as a consistent theme that alcohol use contributes significantly to impaired ability of people to control their gambling

· As with drinking, gender is an important factor. Young men are most likely to gamble, but more women are now taking part, particularly online. Also, men and women often prefer different types of gambling – a crucial factor for services to recognise when trying to understand the motivation for unhealthy gambling behaviour

· Students who drink to cope with stress often also gamble to cope, and have more gambling-related problems. This young demographic are also more likely to be using online gambling technology.

Although our focus as a charity is very much on alcohol issues, we recognise that alcohol misuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and that addressing co-occurring problems of misuse or addiction (such as excessive gambling) is crucial in helping people in difficulties make a full and sustained recovery. That is why we’re collaborating with other agencies to carry out further research, with the aim of developing robust policies and better support services.

If you would like to discuss the issues raised in this report in more detail, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Download full report




Getting the help you need

Estyn Llaw Beat the Odds Cynnal Counselling Service Enfys Medics Counselling Service Excessive Gambling Wales