Churches call on the Goverment to act as problem gambling rises

The Government must take urgent action in response to a reportshowing a rise in the number of problem gamblers, say a group ofChurches.

The call comes in response to the Gambling Commission 2010Prevalence Study.

The study showed that there has been a small increase in theoverall number of people gambling, and the number of individualsclassed as problem gamblers has also risen.

Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs at the Churchof England, said: "Problem gamblers become sucked into a distortedview of reality and often drag themselves and their families intoinsecurity and poverty. This is not just a matter of personalmorality and character but a problem exacerbated by the valuescommunicated by the wider social and policy contexts."

In 2007 68 per cent of people gambled in the past year. This iscompared to 73 per cent in 2010. By one of the two research screensused problem gambling rose from 0.6 per cent to 0.9 per cent. It isestimated that there are between 360-450,000 problem gamblers inthe UK - compared to 284 000 in 2007.

Daniel Webster, of the Evangelical Alliance, said: "There must bean immediate halt to any further relaxation of gambling rules.Changes to gaming machines planned by the Government could easilymake this situation worse."

In the past year nearly three quarters of the population took partin some form of gambling, if the National Lottery is excluded thisfigure falls to 56 per cent which has risen from 48 per cent in2007.

Paul Morrison, of the Methodist Church, said: "Problem gambling isan important social problem that can cause real misery in personaland family life. The Government must act to ensure that the mostvulnerable are protected."

The report finds that problem gamblers are more likely to be youngmen, in poor health and have a family history of problemgambling.

Helena Chambers of Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs noted:"Problem gamblers and their families often suffer stress,ill-health and debt. It is vital that they are supported, and theGovernment does not risk any further increase."

The Churches call on the Government to allow local councils tolimit the number of gambling premises in their areas.

Gareth Wallace, of the Salvation Army, said: "There are now nearlyhalf a million problem gamblers in this country. This is far toomany and the Government must not go ahead with their plans to raisethe stakes of gaming machines and permit arcades and bingo halls toincrease their number."

Due to Government cuts the Gambling Commission suggested that thiscould be the last prevalence study of this kind. Mr Wallace went onto say: "With increased problem gambling the government must fundanother equivalent prevalence study. This is not the time to bewalking blindfolded into an increase in problem gambling."

According to this report, 14 per cent of people now use theinternet to gamble. Lauri Moyle of CARE, said: "This shows howessential it is that the Government urgently develop a rigorousframework for ensuring that internet gambling is properlyregulated."

Although only comprising four per cent of gambling activity the useof Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, the gaming machines only allowedin betting shops, were cited in 25 per cent of calls to thegambling helpline.

Reverend Ian Galloway, Convener of the Church and Society Councilof the Church of Scotland, said: "I'm deeply troubled about thelevel of problem gambling associated with gaming machines. Thisform of gambling is solitary and repetitive and high value machinesin betting shops make every High Street a casino."