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Counsellor calls for greater protection for gambling addicts online

Nuno Leitao is a gambling addiction counsellor for Breakeven. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A counsellor has called for the gambling industry to do more to protect addicts online.

Nuno Leitao, who's based in Norwich, works for Breakeven - a counselling service which is funded by a levy on gambling firms.

He said regulations need to be tightened online, where the growth in the number of betting firms and the proliferation of adverts has led to a rise in the number of young gamblers.

"When I started work six years ago with gamblers I used to have middle-aged people in their 40s and 50s," he said.

"Now it's people who are 18, 19, 20 because of online gambling. It's taking over completely because it's very easy."

"One in five of my clients have tried or thought about killing themselves. It's the highest rate of suicide we have amongst addictions."

– Nuno Leitao, Counsellor
  • Click below to watch Rob Setchell's full report.

Great Britain's gambling industry has ballooned in size over the last decade. It made £14.5 billion from punters last year.

It employs more than 100 thousand people and, as of September last year, there were still more than 8,400 hundred betting shops - but that number is falling.

William Hill has announced plans to close 700 shops with 4,500 jobs at risk.

It said there hd been a big drop in revenue from gaming machines, ever since the Government reduced the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals to £2.

But some want that regulation to go further.

Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock has called for a mandatory tax on gambling firms to help problem gamblers.

The industry insists it is trying to protect people - pointing to self-exclusion schemes including GamStop and deposit limits.

Wes Himes, the Interim Chief Executive of the Remote Gambling Association, said the industry needs to be "innovative" to create new systems to help problem gamblers.

"We're trialling some very innovative features around affordability and game design. We're trying to discern what it is that could be a potential marker of harm and making sure we address them to reduce the probability of problem gambling."

– Wes Himes, Remote Gambling Association