With the World Cup in Qatar in full swing, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned the tournament could lead to an increase in problem gambling.
The FIFA World Cup runs until 18 December and, with online and phone-based gambling now increasingly easy to access, has already led Greater Manchester Combined Authority to launch a campaign – Odds Are: They Win – highlighting the financial and mental health harm that gambling addiction can cause.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has also emphasised the potential health consequences of gambling spiralling out of control.
The college’s lead on behavioural addictions, consultant psychiatrist Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones, said: “Gambling disorder has a devastating impact on individuals and families. People feel trapped and sometimes their gambling can get out of control, leading to severe mental illness as well as suicidal thinking.
“It is estimated that more than 400 lives lost to suicide each year in England are associated with problem gambling. There will be thousands of people out there in urgent need of help, which is why this also must be seen as a public health issue,” she added.
“The starting of the World Cup will have inevitably acted as a trigger to many. Our patients are often very anxious about their ability to manage their cravings and urges, particularly at a time with even more devastating consequences as we face the impending cost of living crisis.
Gambling and health
“With this in mind, it is important for everyone with a gambling disorder to put appropriate self-exclusion agreements in place, both online and in-person. This will make it much harder for them to gamble online or in bookmakers.
“We encourage anyone struggling to cope to seek help before it gets to the point of no return,” Professor Bowden-Jones said.
Professor Bowden-Jones also welcomed a move by the NHS to open two new gambling addiction clinics – one in Stoke and one in Southampton.
The NHS Long Term Plan has pledged to open 15 gambling clinics by 2023/24, with seven gambling addiction clinics now open in London, Leeds, Sunderland, Manchester, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Telford.
A further national addiction clinic, which treats both gambling and gaming addiction for children and young people, is also open in London.
According to new NHS figures, referrals for treatment for gambling addiction were up 42% between April and September this year, with 599 patients referred compared with 421 patients between April and September in 2021.
Around 138,000 people could be problem gamblers according to Gambling Commission figures, with around 1.3 million people engaging in either moderate or low-risk gambling – although other research estimates that this figure could be higher.