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National Safer Gambling Week – when the fun stops!

Raising awareness on problem gambling in National Safer Gambling Week.

Gambling harm can affect anyone, either directly or indirectly, and it destroys families and lives. There are an estimated third of a million problem gamblers in England and Wales; tragically, on average, one problem gambler commits suicide every day.

While many people enjoy gambling safely, others can develop a serious addiction and addiction can lead to crime.

The direct cost to government of gambling-related crime is estimated at £162.5 million annually, ranging from theft and fraud to domestic abuse. In truth, it could be much higher, as there is still limited research to help us to understand and address what is often a hidden problem.

In my role as the Joint Lead for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners - Addictions and Substance Misuse Portfolio, I am keen to work with the Government, and both local government and health agencies to improve how we tackle this issue.

I have already met with Alex Macey from Gamvisory, who was able to give me a much deeper insight into the issue and the effect problem gambling has, not just on the individual involved but their families and friends. I believe it is incredibly important to learn from those who have first-hand knowledge and experience if we are to successfully address how best to tackle the problem.

In my Police and Crime Plan, I have highlighted actions to target addiction and its impact on crime and one of my first actions will be to host a briefing session for other Police and Crime Commissioners with input from the government and national agencies to raise awareness and identify ways of tackling gambling crime.

I will be working towards securing, a regional joined-up, approach on drug dealing, substance misuse and gambling addiction, so that the entire South West works together to reduce this risk. It’s important, not only to get partners to recognise the effects of gambling addiction and crime, but also to act and work together to affect a positive change.

There are also some quick-time positive actions that can be made, for example, my office is working with Dorset Police Custody and the Criminal Justice Liaison and Diversion service to identify and monitor how many detainees have a gambling addiction – which hasn’t been done before. This will help give some much-needed information about the size of the problem in our county.

There is a lot of work to be done, but I hope that in the near future, I can write about the changes we have made to address this issue, from a partnership perspective.

Finally, if you or someone you know is struggling with gambling-related problems, I would encourage you to contact the National Gambling Helpline which provides free advice, information and support around the clock to those suffering from gambling related harm, whether their own or someone else’s.

 

 David Sidwick

Police and Crime Commissioner

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