Number of young people with gambling problems increases

By Greg Dawson and Jimmy Blake
Newsbeat reporters

Media caption,
Gambling addict says smartphone use was 'disastrous'

The number of 18 to 35-year-olds contacting the UK's leading gambling advice service has risen for a third consecutive year.

GamCare's figures show more than 60% of their calls in the past 12 months were from that age group.

It says smartphone and online betting are playing a big part in the rise of young people developing gambling problems.

In total, 8,813 people contacted GamCare for help over the last year.

That's a rise of 8.1% compared to the overall number getting in touch in 2011.

Although the total number of callers stayed the same for 2012, there has been a rise each year in the 18 to 35-year-old category.

Adam Brown, 24, from Long Eaton in Derbyshire, says he first gambled when he was 19 starting with occasional visits to a betting shop.

Adam says using his smartphone to gamble was "disastrous" and it became an addiction.

"You can be out anywhere," he says. "You can be out on nights out and I'm betting away while I'm in the pub.

"You can be in the park, you can be anywhere. You can literally be on the phone and having bets there and then."

Adam estimates gambling has cost him around £20,000.

Although he says his gambling addiction is behind him, his financial problems are a constant reminder of it.

"It's had a major impact on me," he says. "It's pretty much lost me most things that I'd ever wanted to do.

"I've known friends who have done five-year courses at uni to get themselves successful jobs.

"I've probably spent more gambling than they have going through uni."

Mike Kenward is a helpline adviser at GamCare, which is funded by the gambling industry.

Many in Adam's position try to keep their addiction a secret and Mike says GamCare's figures, released exclusively to Newsbeat, are a "snapshot" of the full problem.

The last national survey of gambling habits found there were around 451,000 problem gamblers in Britain.

Despite acknowledging that gamblers themselves are ultimately to blame, Adam says that adverts from gambling companies can be hard to ignore.

In 2007 the government relaxed rules on gambling advertising, meaning lots more adverts started appearing on TV and online.

A spokesperson from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "For the majority of people, gambling is an enjoyable pastime, but for some we know it can be a source of harm and distress.

"While we have not yet had access to the full GamCare report, we welcome any initiative that makes it easier for those with a problem to access the help they need."

GamCare says it will pass its latest figures on for ministers to review.

Image caption,
Mike Kenward, GamCare helpline adviser

Mike Kenward says vigilance is important when gambling behaviour goes downhill.

He believes giving people the ability to create weekly spending limits on apps would help control addictions.

"We have to find ways of helping people to manage and regulate themselves," he says.

"Gambling's legal in this country and is in most places around the world.

"It's going to be available, it's not going to be off the high street."

Brian Wright, the director of The Remote Gambling Association (RGA), says gambling is a feature of modern life and that the RGA is committed to the protection of young and vulnerable people.

He says: "The social responsibility measures that apply to online gambling are extensive, but problem gambling is a complex area and we would never suggest that improvements cannot be made.

"Current protections are sufficient to help most customers manage their gambling without getting into difficulties, but we are in regular contact with regulators, academies and treatment specialists such as GamCare to identify any new initiatives."

If you think you or someone you know has been affected by gambling addiction you can contact GamCare online or via their helpline.

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