GambleAware: West Midlands hardest hit by problem gambling

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According to research conducted by GambleAware, the West Midlands has the highest rate of problem gambling in the country, with an estimated 168,000 adults affected.

GambleAware has found that in the West Midlands, an estimated 168,000 adults are grappling with problem gambling, representing 3.9% of the region’s population. This figure is 25% higher than the national average for gambling-related harms.

This research comes as GambleAware has launched an initiative to prompt the West Midlands community to “open up about gambling.” This campaign forms part of a broader effort to combat stigma, identified as the primary obstacle preventing individuals from seeking support for gambling-related issues.

Zoë Osmond, Chief Executive of GambleAware, stated: “Gambling harm can affect anyone and is a serious public health concern. We want to make sure that more people feel they can open up and get the help they need. Gambling can be addictive, and our data shows just how many people could be impacted by gambling harm in the area.”

Zoning in on the region, recent findings indicate that Coventry has the highest rate of adults grappling with problem gambling across the region, standing at 5.1%, Birmingham follows closely behind at 4.5%, while Sandwell reports a rate of 4%. 

In 2022, GambleAware warned that the number of those suffering from gambling-related harm was rising, which is now evident by its latest figures.

The research has further revealed that individuals from minority groups are disproportionately affected by gambling-related harm, being twice as likely as white British individuals to experience any level of such harm (42% compared to 20%), despite being less likely to have gambled in the past four weeks (31% vs 48% respectively).

Crucially, the research underscores the advantages of discussing gambling issues, as three-quarters (76%) of those who had opened up about their problems reported feeling better afterward.

However, many individuals affected by gambling-related harm often grapple with feelings of shame and embarrassment, making it challenging to discuss the issue with their loved ones. 

Dr Joanne Lloyd, Associate Professor and gambling harms expert, University of Wolverhampton, commented: “Stigma is a massive issue in relation to gambling harms as it is one of the biggest barriers to people seeking treatment. 

“Understanding stigma in relation to gambling harms is not as advanced as some other conditions – so we still have a lot to learn from the research that is currently underway. Most importantly, there’s no shame in asking for help, it’s one of the best steps you can take if you are suffering.”

GambleAware has reported up to 75% of those facing gambling problems feel unable to confide in family and friends and that concerns about stigma deter three in five (61%) individuals from reaching out to those affected by gambling issues. 

As part of the campaign, GambleAware has installed a special build in St Martins Square, which is inspired and co-created by individuals who have personally encountered gambling-related harm, with the billboard aiming to underscore the emotional toll of gambling.

Bianca Colclough, aged 43, who lives in the West Midlands and has lived experience of gambling harms, said: “When I started opening up about my gambling a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. 

“I felt deep shame about my gambling, but I soon realised that once you open up, people understand you and it becomes easier to overcome the problems you have. No one should have to struggle on their own, and help is out there.”

At the installation, the billboard features the message “Gambling clouded everything I did”, the installation also providing information about local support and guidance services.

The initiative has garnered support from former Stoke City player Tony Kelly, as well as various national and regional partners such as the Football Supporters’ Association, Fans for Diversity, Aquarius Armada FC, Bluepool FC, and Nechells Athletic FC.

These organisations will offer assistance ranging from visiting the creative execution site, providing case studies and spokesperson quotes, to sharing support through their social media platforms.

Andrew Rhodes, Chief Executive Officer of the Gambling Commission, commented: “It’s wonderful to witness the ongoing progress of the GambleAware stigma campaign, along with the unveiling of the new billboard in central Birmingham. 

“Acknowledging the courage it takes to initiate conversations about gambling, any efforts to dismantle barriers to addressing gambling harms are truly appreciated.”