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PA
UK News

Christian charity backs calls for betting firms to fund gambling addiction treatment

by Eno Adeogun

The head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has condemned the "fraction" spent by the industry compared with that devoted to advertising and marketing.

His criticism comes as the NHS announced a new service for 13 to 25-year-olds based at the UK's only dedicated gambling addiction centre, the National Problem Gambling Clinic in London.

 

Stevens said: "The links between problem gambling and stress, depression and mental health problems are growing and there are too many stories of lives lost 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."

Christian charity CARE's spokesman James Mildred told Premier why he agreed with Stevens' recommendation.

"We have a generational crisis going on right now with problem gambling among young people," Mildred said.

"Mr Stevens is right - with the gambling industry, it's time for them to face the music and to start spending more of their profits to fund research and fund treatment so problem gamblers receive the help they need there."

Mildred insisted that the charity wasn't condemning Christians that gamble but rather their aim was to protect the most vulnerable from gambling addictions.

He explained: "There is no direct prohibition in the Bible against gambling. You have some general principles about being careful with money and about being a good steward of what God has given you.

"You have to take into account your other financial responsibilities.

"God cares about vulnerable people. You get it again and again and again in the Bible that God calls unjust rulers to account. And I think this is not about saying to people in a kind of moralistic way, stop having fun, stop gambling altogether. It's rather about saying, 'let's frame our laws in such a way as to protect the most vulnerable'.

"So the way we put it is that while for the majority gambling is just harmless fun, there's a significant minority, and it is growing, where it's causing real harm and we think as Christians that God's heart is for these people to be helped to live free of their addiction."

He added that the charity is interested in working with MPs and peers to put pressure on the gambling industry.

"We're not trying shut them down," he said.

"We're just asking that there be a bit more responsible and give more money to help fund treatment so that we can begin to push back against the growing problem of addictive gambling that's spreading across the nation."

Listen to Premier's Eno Adeogun speaking with James Mildred:

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