By Roger Harrabin.
MENTAL HEALTH problems will increase if the government goes ahead with its proposed Gambling Bill, a top public health consultant has warned.
Geof (sic) Rayner , Chairman of the UK Public Health Association says plans to bring casinos to the High Street could double the number of gambling addicts and lead to more depression, debt and suicides.
He accused ministers of putting the demands of the gambling industry before the needs of the poor and vulnerable and said the plan flies in the face of the other anti-poverty, pro-health policies of the government.
A recent study from the Henley Centre predicts a rise in the number of problem gamblers from around 300,000 to 700,000 in a decade because of the increase in the number of people who would be attracted to a more accessible and socially acceptable pastime.
The government minister Lord McIntosh said gambling did not present a problem to the vast majority of people. He insisted that new rules would limit the potential harm to the most vulnerable gamblers, and said it would properly control Internet gambling for the first time.
Mr Rayner wants the government to limit the size of casinos so they can't have thousands of machines, a bigger industry fund to help gambling addicts and, particularly, a clear target by ministers to reduce the number of addicts. His remark echoes the concerns expressed by a committee of MPs which warned that problem gambling would increase as a result of the bill. They demanded: A cap of 1,250 on slot machines (the most addictive form of gambling) in resort casinos a lower cap for smaller casinos tighter rules on online gambling.
Gambling addiction is acknowledged by the medical professional as a serious problem. Dr Paul Davies, chair of the Faculty of Addiction for the British Psychological Society said: “Gambling is as much an addictive behaviour as heroin addiction. I do not believe that the government can increase the numbers of people gambling without inevitably increasing the number of people suffering from mental health problems related to gambling. The more gambling is normalised and the more gambling activities become more addictive, the more prevalent gambling addictions will become. There is a certain type of person who is very vulnerable to this. ”
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