Feature: Stepping-up the fight to combat rising menace of Newham betting fixation
12:00 14 June 2014
More support is needed for gambling addicts in Newham, according to the chief executive of a Stratford-based service which offers counselling.
Sue Kenten, from Drug and Alcohol Service for London (DASL), hopes that a new partnership with Betknowmore will allow a purpose-designed hub offering mentoring, outreach and other support facilities to open, as her charity’s offering of six hourly slots is oversubscribed.
“Betting is a growing industry and we are really running just to try and catch up to get anywhere,” she explained. “Offering six sessions a week is not sufficient because people engage, but we have more demand.
“We see people who don’t even know that they have a problem. Over the last two or three years we have started to see people who have gambling problems as well as drugs and alcohol addiction.”
Sue co-chaired an open meeting with Frankie Graham, director of Betknowmore, last week to hear residents’ views on what should be done to combat the problem.
n Up to 590,000 adults in Britain could have a gambling problem
n About 75 per cent of problem gamblers also have a mental health issue
n 73pc of British adults gamble at least once a year
n 60pc of problem gamblers commit a non-violent criminal act to fund their gambling
n About 60pc of gamblers will consider suicide and about 20pc will attempt it
n Up to 40pc of gamblers also develop an alcohol or drugs dependency
n A gambling addiction has an impact on about nine other people around you
She says it is clear that the high number of bookmakers in Newham makes it more difficult for people to resist gambling.
“It’s like when you walk past a pub, you might think about having a drink,” Sue said. “We have a lot of empty shops and this is what happens, more and more bookies appear on the high street. They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t making money and, sadly, that market is there.”
Frankie, who was a problem gambler for 20 years, from the age of 16, knows from experience that excessive gambling can impact on every area of your life.
His issues were combined with drug and alcohol problems, which came to a head in 2006 when he almost went to prison after committing crime to fund his addictions.
He is concerned that the availability and ease of gambling is ever increasing, particularly with the rise in use of betting phone apps.
“I think it is a very real social problem that needs addressing and not enough is being done,” Frankie said. “There is a lot more interest in promoting remote gambling, especially moving forward, and there are even less safeguards in place.
“If you go to a betting shop you have got to make a bit of an effort, got to go out and get the money to put it in the machine, but now you could be lying in bed and gambling.
“The more betting is available, the bigger the problem is going to be.”
His organisation is campaigning for information about gambling addiction to be made more readily available, in places like youth centres and doctors’ surgeries, as he believes people are often unaware of how they can get help.
“The current implication is that the fault is with the individual person and they are addicted because of their own vulnerability to addiction, there doesn’t seem to be much focus on the cause and effect,” Frankie said. “There is not enough advice in health and community centres about gambling and how it can be addictive but I think we are more willing to think outside the box and develop services and be more flexible about how we are going to combat this.”