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Vulnerable Customers at Risk of Gambling Harm

An occasional flutter on the horses or play on an online game site can be fun, but to many people, gambling is highly addictive. As the Gambling Commission set out new rules to protect the most vulnerable customers, we explore the appeal of gambling and the support available to those who are struggling to stop.

Why Do People Gamble?

Gambling typically starts as a bit of fun. Like most forms of entertainment, it provides an escape from the real world. A bet can heighten the enjoyment of a sporting fixture. Slot machines or a game of bingo can be sociable and exciting ways to spend some time.

As money is involved, there is added risk and the chance of a big win. This gets the adrenalin pumping and, if luck is on your side, there is a feel-good factor.

What is the Connection Between Gambling and Vulnerability?

The trouble with gambling is that this escapism, adrenalin rush and social connection can be addictive. Win and you want to repeat the success, lose and you believe you can win it back with the next go. For some, getting that next fix of gambling means that they risk far more than they can afford.

The current cost of living crisis is likely to reduce the amount that many spend on gambling sites and lotteries, however, some players see this as their only chance of getting out of a tough financial situation. Their desperation and addiction cloud their judgement, so they keep gambling, putting themselves and others at risk of harm.

The gambling industry and regulatory bodies are fully aware that many people risk it all on a game. For this reason, gambling companies have social responsibilities to comply with.

These include:

  • Identifying at-risk players and undertaking measures to limit play

  • Undertaking affordability checks

  • Putting in place restrictions, such as deposit caps, to protect players from exceeding limits

Why is the Gambling Commission Implementing New Rules?

Not enough is being done to protect vulnerable customers. In 2022, Progress Play, Jumpman Games and Sky Betting have all been fined for breaching codes of conduct. Collectively, these companies run hundreds of online gambling sites.

The largest fine of £9.4million was issued to 888*, owner of 78 websites for failing on social responsibilities. The company had previously been fined £7.8million in 2017, yet this wasn’t a sufficient incentive for change and they continue to trade.

The Gambling Commission wants to step up standards and the new rules** come into effect on 12 September 2022. They include monitoring of specific risk indicators and timely action when they are identified. There is also a requirement to avoid marketing to at-risk customers.

Reforms on Gambling Laws have been discussed in Parliament, with suggestions of a 1% levy on winnings. If approved, the money would be directed to gambling addition research and support, however, no decisions have yet been made.

Risk of Harm from Gambling

In Government Research relating to gambling-related harms***, it was identified that approximately 0.5% of the UK population faced detrimental harm due to gambling and a further 3.8% were at risk. There are several harms associated with gambling addiction:

Financial Risk

Although many hope that a winning streak could get them out of financial difficulties, the vast majority of gamblers lose money. This can result in spiralling debt and can impact their ability to pay for essentials including food and accommodation. A poor credit record can impact future access to loans and credit.

Failed Relationships

Government research identified that approximately 7% of the UK population was negatively affected by someone else’s gambling addiction. It is the cause of breakdowns in families, marriages and friendships.

Health Risk

There is a correlation between gambling addiction and an increased risk of early death through health issues or suicide.

Employment Loss

As with other addictions, gambling impacts an individual’s concentration, capabilities, attitude, punctuality and absenteeism. This can result in job loss and difficulty finding work.

Reducing the Risk of Gambling Harm

For Gambling Companies

BeGambleAware produced an informative document to help gambling companies to understand and apply the Financial Conduct Authority’s Fair Treatment of Vulnerable Customers. This shares good practices and recommended actions to ensure compliance and to protect those at risk:

For Gamblers

For those who recognise that gambling is becoming an addiction, online support and signposting are available on the National Gambling Helpline: 0808 8020133

All Bets Are Off Podcasts: and Don’t Bet Your Life On It: resources can also be informative and helpful.

Your GP can make a referral to the NHS Problem Gambling Clinic

For the Family of a Gambler

If your family are affected by someone’s gambling addiction, visit the GamFam website:

Safer Gambling

According to Gambling receipts****, £3,074million was bet between April 2021 and March 2022 in the UK. This includes Lottery tickets, remote gambling, machine games and bingo. Whilst the gambling companies are enjoying plentiful profits, many gamblers are losing money at a rate that they cannot afford.

The sooner that an unhealthy relationship with gambling is identified (by individuals, friends and family or gambling companies) the better the chances of turning things around. I welcome the new Gambling Commission rules if they can reduce harmful and vulnerable circumstances for gamblers and their families.





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