The NHS has expressed concern over a “new wave” of gambling addiction amid the UK COVID-19 lockdown.
A gambling addiction treatment in Leeds has warned that the current UK lockdown will potentially lead to a rise in the number of people struggling with gambling addiction and debt. According to BBC News, the clinic expects a rise in referrals for treatment during the pandemic as people are left with nothing to do.
What’s more, the cancellation of sports betting will spur people into registering with online casinos, the clinic stated. To combat this, the NHS Northern Gambling Service, which operates the Leeds-based clinic, is now offering video support to help those who are vulnerable and struggling.
Matthew Gaskell, the clinical lead at the Leeds facility, told the BBC: “There are a range of risk factors in place at the moment: social isolation, boredom, stress, financial and job insecurity and the opportunity to gamble online.
“While a lot of sports betting has stopped, we are expecting a rise in referrals further down the line. It takes time for gambling harm to spread across someone’s life and for them to realise they have a problem.”
He added: “We are concerned that the new wave of gambling addiction will happen under these circumstances and that customers are not being adequately protected.”
Michael Dugher, the Chief Executive of the Betting And Gaming Council (BGC), added: “In this time of national crisis, with so many people self-isolating and social distancing at home, it is vital that we do everything possible to ensure safer gambling and to protect potentially vulnerable or at risk people.”
The news comes after Gamstop urged all gamblers struggling with addictions to self-exclude themselves during the COVID-19 UK lockdown.
The organisation, which allows gamblers to exclude themselves from UK gambling sites, called on players to do so after the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group claimed that the current lockdown could lead to an increased number of problem gamblers.
Meanwhile, Gamstop has claimed that since the lockdown was initiated several weeks ago, the service has experienced a surge in the number of callers looking to lift their ban before their minimum exclusion time-period has passed.
Earlier this month, the UK Gambling Commission announced a slew of new measures including restrictions on VIP schemes which will now require users to be over the age of 25 to join and require them to have completed a series of checks.