Gambling is not treated like other harmful activities

Repeatedly, people questioned why gambling is treated differently to other addictive and harmful activities, like alcohol, smoking or drugs. They point out these differences in how gambling is regulated by the government and dealt with in other areas of the government’s policy and services – like health and social care, education and public information, benefits, criminal justice, financial services and consumer protection.

People have said this discrimination is a big driver of stigma. It makes it seem like gambling is not addictive, it is people’s own fault and they do not deserve help and protection. Through it’s actions, the government gives this message to everyone in society, so it seems the stigma is justified.

People are perplexed as to why the government puts fewer restrictions on gambling companies, for advertising and sponsorship, availability and accesibility, rules about product safety, and product warnings.

I think what’s interesting is the responsibility of these things, I feel are always kind of put on the victims. So it’s always like, you know, if you say to someone — so you’ve got to think like why is tobacco advertising banned and like why are alcohol adverts not shown or whatever at certain times, whatever the rules are, and it’s because, you know, it’s not very good for you. And like, it’s the same with gambling really, but it’s behind the times, with that sort of stuff. And the fact that it’s normalised. I would say it’s definitely normalised, like I was saying, for young people, you’re going to have a lot of, a lot, I would estimate that a lot of people in the future are going to become problem gamblers because they’re already gambling at the age, at very young ages. So it’s normalised behaviour. And they think that it’s an okay thing to do kind of thing, where actually if it was more restricted then, if there was more protection in place for people, then it might, it might stop the wrong people like me being able to lose a lot of money that they can’t afford gambling.


But for me, the gambling industry, if the basic, basic principle is the government industry’s business model is built on addiction. It’s as profit-making organization with zero morals. And when you when you try to tap them and deal with that in itself, you can’t change… They’re not going to change their business model, but we have to understand that we need to change the aggressive marketing. We need to understand a lot more about the products and how they’re designed and how they’re addictive. That insight that will add into the fact that we’re now looking at it’s not just more personal responsibility, it’s not just you to blame, that would start tackling stigma. It’s moving away from that whole personal responsibility. The responsibility comes from everybody, comes from government, comes from the regulator.


It’s horrible. It’s just the nastiest thing ever. I’ve tried all sorts of things over the years. I wasn’t a very good kid, I dabbled with drugs and drink and all sorts years ago, and nothing comes close to the damage gambling does. Compared to anything else, it’s horrible. It’s the worst thing ever. And it’s so readily available. It’s like there’s no hiding from it. It’s like you just can’t. Every time you turn on the TV, the radio, it’s just everywhere at the moment. It’s just, there’s just no escape from it. And yeah, it’s like, it’s like living in hell. Honestly, it’s horrible. It’s not nice, but yeah, hopefully it’s behind me now. But yeah, I know I’ll always have this battle.

Like I said, it’s not a conversation that’s had. Young people out there just think it’s normal. I don’t think betting is a normal thing to do. You probably know yourself in marketing. It’s hard to read articles now and see videos online where the most marketing is done to the highest-risk gamblers. You’d never see that in a pub with drinkers. You’d never see the person who’s in there every day, drinking six, seven pints in the evening, you’d never see that pub landlord putting offers on just for that one person. You’re pushing offers in that one person’s face. It’s never the case, but with gambling, it seems to be the normal thing to do with it.


People cannot understand why there is not the same level of education and public information from government about the risks and harms from gambling in comparison to other addictive products. People question why there is only limited public information on where to seek help. They feel that sources of help should be given a high profile so that everyone knows what to do if they suffer from gambling harm. People have said that gambling advertising is everywhere but that information on harm, support and help are invisible.

I remember I was at an England game in a pub a lady said to me so why are you down here then, why are you living down here? and I said, I’ve just come out of rehab, and I don’t want to go back to London and I suffer with a gambling addiction – like you gamble loads? It’s just, I think it’s just looked at so differently, whether that’s stigma or not I just I feel like sometimes people just don’t understand. You know, you say you got a drink problem or drug problem it’s like ohhh. You say gambling problem ‘What he gambles too much? or she gambles too much’ but it’s like, it’s not really seen I don’t think. It’s so normalized. You know, it’s so normalized.

You’ve got the guilt, the shame, the what if, all those and constantly questioning yourself, but when I stopped gambling and spoke to people about it and the first people I spoke to were my mother and father-in-law about it because I needed– We borrowed quite a bit of money from them and they knew there was something going on, but they didn’t know what. When I stopped gambling, I thought it was important for me to go and explain about what I’ve been going through. They were in the generation where they don’t really understand, not addiction itself, but gambling addiction because it’s not really prevalent, it’s not really spoke about. When people say addiction, you automatically go to drugs or alcohol, gambling’s not spoke about in the same way. The question I got, my first question was, “Why couldn’t you just stop?” Now, you wouldn’t ask that to a drug addict, you wouldn’t ask that to an alcoholic.


I’m sure no one would argue if you said, I’m going to quit smoking tomorrow. They would be like that’s brilliant, well done. And you would, you’d be proud to say it, but I think you would definitely feel ashamed to say I have a gambling addiction and I need to stop tomorrow because somewhere there must be a thing in your mind about the stigma attached to it. So you’re irresponsible, you don’t care about what you’ve done, you’re stupid for want a bad word. You know, you’re not intelligent enough to realise what you’re doing.

People I’ve spoken to, the first reaction I get is, oh, they don’t understand. It’s like why, why would you do that, I don’t understand that, don’t ever gamble. You wouldn’t say that to a drug addict or an alcoholic. The gambling thing, the addiction, people really don’t understand it. That’s why when I hear that, you automatically think, oh yes, it is a bit shameful. Let me take it into the same account as a mental health illness and addiction. It’s the same thing. That’s hard to get people to understand. That’s what I’ve witnessed with it. That doesn’t help you wanting to talk about it.

They encourage to do. And there is very little advertisement for help. You know, very useless, totally useless. If you don’t know, I went to the […] hospital emergency department because money in my pocket I cannot trust myself. And to the emergency department, I say to my doctor, it’s like that, I am facing this type of problem. So, they totally ignore me. Why you are here. It is for emergency. You cannot come here. I’m pressing problem. I cannot sleep. I cannot eat. A lot of things in my head. So, they just don’t give me any treatment, they just print one paper. There are some addresses there like, GA meeting, GamCare number. So it’s not enough. Like they hate, it’s like that. They hate me or they hate this type of people.


People reflect that has become normal to have conversations about alcohol, smoking, drugs, mental health, or suicidal thoughts, and for services to ask about them. But this is not the case for gambling. They have said that services have a blind-spot when it comes to gambling.

You do see stigma attached to it. Like I say, you know, go for a health check, it never used to be a question that was on your health check, how many fags do you smoke, you smoke how many fags, you drink how many? Nothing about gambling. Gambling was my biggest…it’s mad because when I talk to you about health, when my cholesterol was at 7.8 and it went down to four point something. I remember her saying to me my God, that’s gone down so much over the years, like, what have you changed? And I said well, I’ve stopped gambling and I eat porridge every day. That was like my reasoning for it. The question wasn’t even on there, but that’s why my health had improved

People are very anxious about telling services or organisations about their gambling difficulties. They worry that they will not be understood or helped. They also worry about what the consequences will be for them. Many public services are not designed to help those who experience gambling harm. In fact, the way public services work often adds to the harm people are experiencing rather than improving matters for them.

Some people had negative experiences when they told their suffering to organisations including: GPs, emergency services, mental health and addiction services, social care, benefit services, criminal justice, financial services, debt services, and employers.

There’s not really much out there really. Obviously at the time, or at the time I didn’t think there was any help at all about it until, obviously, it got to [person]. Obviously, the GPs and counsellors they’ve not really helped a lot. They don’t know anything about what you’re going through, the gambling side. They’ve not been through it themselves.

I actually spoke to my GP not long after this all came out, but I thought he was a waste of space to be honest because at no point did he say, “Yes, I’d like to speak to you.” He just said, “I’ll send you a few links regarding counselling which I found poor, to be honest. Because I do feel as though when you’re speaking to someone face to face, you can get your point across and explain stuff and it was just the case of probably. “I don’t want to see you. I can just send you links,” and the links were just about counselling.

Get Support

If you feel like you need support or someone to talk to about your own or someone else’s gambling, there are several organisations who can offer help, support and answer any questions you may have.

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