When does an innocent bit of fun turn into something more serious?

09 August 2019

CAROLYN HARRIS, Labour MP for Swansea East, deputy leader of Welsh Labour, and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm, explains why she is trying to protect the vulnerable from the vultures of the gambling industry.






Buying a scratchcard when you pop to the newsagents. A day at the races with friends. £20 on your team to win the league this season. Fun with the kids in the arcades on your day trip to the seaside. Some of these are probably familiar to most people. An innocent bit of fun. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose but, either way, it’s within your means and you enjoy it.


But when does that innocent bit of fun turn into something far more serious? 


As chair of the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group, I have witnessed first hand the devastation that gambling addiction can cause. 


I have sat with grown men as they have cried about the money – sometimes hundreds of thousands of pounds – that they have lost over the years. About the relationships that have broken down because of their addiction and the children they no longer see.


I have heard stories from people who have lost their jobs, committed crimes, and been to prison – all because of their addiction. Professional men and women who have lost everything – careers, family, friends, and their dignity – because what started as a bit of fun got way out of hand.


I have listened to heartbroken parents, consumed by a devastating anger and a need for answers, as they have told me about their son who has taken his own life because he could no longer cope with the demons of his addiction.


And I have heard from an industry which still, despite the evidence, continues to refuse to take action and acknowledge the real tragedy that gambling addiction can cause.


The good news is that the APPG is a stalwart group of MPs and peers determined to take on the industry. A group that has already been instrumental in the stake reduction on fixed odds betting terminals and is now looking at the regulation of online gambling and what needs to be done to support and protect the most vulnerable.


The truth is that, like any addiction, an addiction to gambling can affect anyone from any walk of life. It does not discriminate – male or female, young or old, rich or poor, black or white. But, unlike some other addictions, there are no physical clues and addicts become very good at denying there is a problem – even to themselves.


There may be some of you reading this with whom this resonates. Maybe you are noticing a pattern in your own behaviour, or that of a family member or colleague.


The first step is admitting the problem and the next is doing something about it.


If you think that you, or someone you know, needs help then there is help available:


Gamban is software you can download onto your machines and devices that will effectively block gambling website and apps.


Gamcare is a national provider of free information, advice and support for those with a gambling addiction.


The National Gambling HelpLine can be contacted on 0808 8020 133 for confidential advice and support for those affected by a gambling addiction.


GamStop allows you to put controls in place to restrict online gambling activities.


Gamblers Anonymous  have a forum, chat room, and can tell you the location of your closest Gamblers Anonymous meeting.


This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of the ASLEF Journal.

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