Young gamblers ‘stealing from their employers’ to pay online debts

PUBLISHED: 17:00 16 October 2015

Betting

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YOUNG people in Weston have stolen from their employers, spent up to £700 an hour and lost £10,000 in a weekend, as new figures show an increasing number of 18 to 24 year-olds are addicted to online gambling.

Weston treatment centres Broadway Lodge and Addiction Recovery told the Mercury how ‘accessible’, ‘24/7’ online betting is having a direct impact on the amount of young adults who are gambling.

They warned the number of people addicted to online gambling is growing due to unprecedented levels, following the latest batch of figures from GamCare.

GamCare – the UK’s leading provider of support for gambling addictions – said it had received more than 3,000 calls for help from young adults in 2013 and 2014.

Peter Smith, development director of Broadway Lodge, a 45-bed residential addiction treatment centre in Oldmixon, said internet gambling provides more opportunities to gamble.

He said: “There has been a marked shift towards the younger [people]. Gambling is much more accessible these days than it was in the past. Now it is possible to gamble 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

“People have lost their home, got into mortgage arrears. I do know somebody who stole money from work and of course it comes out eventually and people run the risk of a custodial sentence.”

Broadway Lodge also noted a significant increase in the number of young people coming to them for advice, after NatCen for Social Research reported there were 83,000 ‘problem gamblers’ younger than 24 in the UK.

Mr Smith said: “These days we have most initial contacts made by email and probably 75 per cent of these are from people in their 20s.

He revealed one gambler had frittered away £700 in a single hour, while Graham England, managing director of Addiction Recovery, a Weston-based help centre, said he had seen gamblers lose more than £10,000 in a weekend.

Mr England said: “There are cases of people defrauding their companies and employers of hundreds of thousands of pounds to pay for their gambling problem.”

Mr England warned between six and eight other people can be affected by one person’s addiction.

Wilbur Xavier, a gambling counsellor for Western Counselling – a specialist rehabilitation centre, said: “Lots of times, gambling goes hand in hand with alcohol or drug addiction. People can be suicidal after losing their money.”

GamCare now offers solution to ‘remote gambling’ – the access to betting online, on smartphones or through interactive TV – after it was contacted by people who admitted losing a sense of time and reality when gambling from home.

It recommends software-blocking sites like Gamblock (www.gamblock.com). They also offer helplines open seven days per week.

Mr England said Addiction Recovery speaks to more than 300 regular clients, offering a range of counselling and techniques.

He added: “You have to be unshockable so you can get people to concentrate on the solution. We use a range of techniques for people to understand the problems of their addiction and that’s done by sitting in a room and being honest and talking about it.”

But Simon Parfitt, from Rethink Gambling, which seeks to boost general awareness of gambling addiction, says more needs to be done, particularly when helping young people. He said: “The reasons people with problems fail to seek help are complex.

“They include a number of factors such as a lack of knowledge about the different help options available and a low awareness of opportunities for seeking help.”

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