The UK Gambling Commission has commenced a new national strategy in an effort to reduce gambling harms.

Spanning across three years, the new strategy aims to drive and coordinate work to bring a lasting impact on reducing gambling harms.

It is hoped by taking a broader focus and adopting a public health approach, rather than simply encouraging individuals to gamble responsibly, will help reduce gambling harms further.

The Commission said in a statement that for the first time ever collaboration between health bodies, charities, regulators and businesses will take place to tackle the complicated issue.

William Moyes, chairman of the Gambling Commission, said: “The success of this strategy relies on everyone working together to reduce gambling harms through prevention and education, and treatment and support.

“It will not just benefit the health and wellbeing of those directly affected and in need of support, but also those such as friends, families, communities and wider society.”

The strategy will focus on two main priority areas the first being prevention and education, described as “making significant progress towards a clear public health prevention plan which includes the right mix of interventions.”

Secondly, treatment and support, described in the statement as “delivering truly national treatment and support options that meet the needs of users.”

Moyes continued: “We all need to better understand the harms that can be caused by gambling, moving away from simply counting problem gamblers and instead build a greater understanding of the harms experienced.

“Over the lifetime of the strategy we will better understand the full range of harms and how to protect against them.’’

As part of the new strategy, the Commission said it will continue to take a “firm regulatory enforcement approach” and also further continue improving research into gambling harms.

A new website has been launched where all information on the strategy’s priorities can be accessed and progress can be tracked.

Problem gambling

According to the Commission’s official Health Survey, a total of 2.4% of adults were considered low-risk gamblers – with a further 1.1% were classed as moderate-risk gamblers.

Furthermore, its ‘Young People and Gambling 2018 Report’ discovered 1.7% of 11-16 year olds are classified as ‘problem’ gamblers and 2.2% are categorised as ‘at risk’.

Minister for Sport and Civil Society Mims Davies, spoke of the importance for every gambling business to protect people from gambling harm and with increased research, education and treatment she anticipates “faster progress” to be made in tackling the issue.

She explained: “Addiction can ruin lives and it is vital that those who need help are given the right treatment at the right time.

“The Gambling Commission’s strategy reflects our clear expectation that the whole sector must come together to reduce problem gambling and the harm it does to people and their families.”

The Commission revealed it will also explore the establishment of a new national research centre and work is already being undertaken to build a national data repository for research purposes.

Marc Etches, CEO of GambleAware, echoed the point of the seriousness of gambling and expressed his appreciation that the subject is now being treated as a public health issue.

He commented: “GambleAware has a central role in commissioning core elements of the national strategy including the research programme and the emerging National Gambling Treatment Service working with the NHS and others to help direct people to the right intervention.”

He went on to say that last year 30,000 people received advice from the National Gambling Helpline and 9,000 people were treated via a national network of providers that GambleAware fund.

Despite this, Etches said that less than 3% of the reported number of problem gamblers access services leading him to conclude: “it is clear there is much more to be done in raising awareness about this serious public health issue.”

Public Health England will also be conducting the first review of evidence on the public health harms in England relating to gambling – expected to be reviewed in spring next year.

The review will look at the range and scale of gambling harms and identify the impact of gambling on peoples’ health and wellbeing.

Rosanna O’Connor, Director of alcohol, drugs, tobacco and justice at Public Health England, added: “PHE welcomes the Strategy’s commitment to taking a public health approach to gambling related harms.

“There is an urgent need to develop a better understanding of these harms and how best to respond to them and PHE has been commissioned by Government to undertake a comprehensive independent evidence review on the public health harms of gambling.”