Tele column 1st March 2019

When we talk about addiction we tend to think of drugs and alcohol. And these are only defined separately because one is illegal and the other isn’t. Gambling addiction is not as obvious but it is just as pernicious. In Inverclyde alone cash inserted into FOBTs in 2016 was £11,527,602. This led to losses of just under £3m. It is estimated that two people a day take their own lives due to a gambling addiction. While the legal alcohol market place is regulated and the illegal drug market is a law unto itself, gambling is legal and regulated but relies heavily on self-regulation. The gambling commission issues guidelines, not laws. While funding for gambling related harm activities is based on a voluntary contribution from book makers. On the up side there is a growing recognition of the damage gambling can do and moves are afoot to address it. I am pushing for a new gambling clinic to be established in Scotland once the one in Leeds is fully up and running. Advertisers are being questioned over adverts aimed at children and vulnerable adults. The quantity of adverts around sporting events is due to be addressed and ‘loot boxes’ in video games have been banned in a number of countries. I hope to bring forward a resolution at the SNP conference to ask the Conservative and Unionist UK government to do likewise and ban them or give the powers to the SNP Scottish government to do so. The recent GambleAware campaign focuses on males aged 16 to 34 who are already gambling at least twice a week and will target three areas of vulnerability, chasing losses, drunk gambling and bored gambling. This is a two year campaign to change attitudes and reduce gambling, it is not a prohibition model. Gambling addiction destroys lives and it is time we addressed the normalisation amongst adults, the grooming of children and the lack of support for those that are vulnerable to the damage it can cause.