The research concluded that there could be over 10,000 people in Leeds who could be identified as ‘problem gamblers’ and a further 30,000 people who may be ‘at risk of harm’ from gambling.
Leeds City Council funded the research to find out the extent of problem gambling in Leeds and assess the availability of specialist support and referral services to help people experiencing problems resulting from gambling. The research findings have led to the establishment of an expert project group bringing together key national organisations from the gambling industry to work with local third sector agencies and the city council to develop a co-ordinated approach to improve and strengthen the support available to those suffering from gambling-related harm. The council’s initial plans will be presented tomorrow (Friday 10 March) at a national conference held at Leeds Civic Hall.
Dr Neil Ormerod, Research Fellow at Leeds Beckett University, who interviewed people from local support services, stated: “Support services provide vital assistance to individuals with gambling-related problems. However, all acknowledged difficulties in supporting individuals due to the hidden nature of the problem and few were aware of specialist support in Leeds. To address these issues, several stakeholders pointed to the comprehensive approach taken within Leeds to tackle addiction issues, poverty and homelessness as a good foundation on which to develop problem gambling support.”
Leeds City Council is now taking steps to improve the support offered to gamblers in Leeds. They will work with services across the city to increase knowledge and awareness of the support available.
The researchers found that the biggest impacts on the health and wellbeing of gamblers were debt, relationship breakdowns and mental health issues.
Dr Alexandra Kenyon (pictured above) said: "Our findings showed that many people enjoy gambling as a fun and sociable activity. But for some that is not the case. Some gamblers told me they hid their gambling habits from family and friends, lied about their whereabouts, borrowed money or spent grocery money on gambling and sometimes gamble away their wages to ‘chase the big win’.”
Nationally, the rates of problem gambling are less than one per cent of the population; however, rates in large metropolitan areas such as Leeds are often higher. Councillor Debra Coupar, Executive Member for Communities, said: “The findings of the study not only raise our understanding and awareness of the issue in the city but; crucially, we intend that it will be the catalyst for action to better support those suffering from gambling-related harm. As a council we place great emphasis on early support for people with a whole range of issues who may otherwise fall through the cracks and find themselves in even greater difficulty.”
The research was led by Dr Alexandra Kenyon with Dr Neil Ormerod and Visiting Professor David Parsons in Leeds Beckett’s International Centre for Research in Events, Tourism and Hospitality (ICRETH), working closely with nationally-renowned expert on the gambling industry, Dr Heather Wardle.