The NHS has announced plans to open its first-ever gambling clinic for children.
According to the NHS, it will now begin offering specialist help to children and young people between the ages of 13 and 25 at the National Problem Gambling Clinic in London.
The news comes amid an expansion of gambling treatment services for adults and after the UK Gambling Commission announced that an estimated 50,000 children are experiencing a gambling problem in the United Kingdom, according to a recent study.
Also in the study, the Commission found that around 450,000 people are gambling regularly which is more than the number of people who have drunk alcohol, taken drugs or smoked. Meanwhile, it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK have a gambling problem.
As part of the NHS’ expansion for gambling treatment services, up to 14 more gambling clinics are set to open within the following months, focusing on adults. Three of these clinics include the NHS Northern Gambling Service in Leeds, expected t open this summer, as well as clinics in Manchester and Sunderland.
In a statement, Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England, said: “The links between problem gambling and stress, depression and mental health problems are growing and there are too many stories of lost lives and families destroyed.
“This action shows just how seriously the NHS takes the threat of gambling addiction, even in young people, but we need to be clear – tackling mental ill health caused by addiction is everyone’s responsibility – especially those firms that directly contribute to the problem.
“This is an industry that splashes £1.5 billion on marketing and advertising campaigns, much of it now pumped out online and through social media, but it has been spending just a fraction of that helping customers and their families deal with the direct consequences of addiction.
He continued, calling for a gambling tax to pay for addiction treatment. Stevens said: “The sums just don’t add up and that is why as well as voluntary action it makes sense to hold open the possibility of a mandatory levy if experience shows that is what is needed.
“A levy to fund evidence-based NHS treatment, research and education can substantially increase the money available, so that taxpayers and the NHS are not left to pick up a huge tab.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “I have seen first-hand the devastating impact gambling addiction can have on people’s lives and I am determined to do everything I can to help anyone affected get the help and support they need.
“We know too many young people face their lives being blighted by problem gambling – so these new clinics will also look at what more can be done to help them.”