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Gambling addiction 'is a huge hidden problem' in Wales

Credit: PA

Problem gambling in Wales has been described as a "huge hidden problem" by a leading addiction expert.

Wynfod Ellis Owen, Chief Executive of Living Room in Cardiff - a centre that helps addicts - has called on the Welsh Government to follow Scotland and England by undertaking research into the issue.

There are no Wales-specific figures on problem gambling.The Welsh Government told us they don't collect them after a consultation found it wasn't a "priority topic."

Mr Owen told ITV Wales' In Focus that based on his research of Fixed Odd Betting terminals, Wales has a "huge huge problem" - even before taking into account all the other forms of gambling available.

Watch Rob Osborne's In Focus report on gambling

The Living Room, using 2012 statistics from the Gambling Commission, found huge amounts of money being staked on fixed odds betting terminals in Wales.

£1.6 Bn
Amount of money staked on fixed odd betting terminals in Wales.
£1m
The average staked on each Welsh terminal.
£1053
Amount staked per adult in Cardiff alone. That's as much as cities like Bristol and Edinburgh.

For those with a gambling problem, it can take over their life.

Only this week we learnt of the devastating impact a gambling addiction can have.

A corner ruled that a Cardiff teenager killed himself after getting into £5,000 of debt by online gambling.

Omair Abbas racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt Credit: Wales News

18 year old Omair Abbas suffered depression because of his debts and the coroner ruled that more should be done to protect young people from the dangers of online betting.

Joseph Nolloth is another young man with a gambling addiction. The 24 year old began gambling with scratch cards, but quickly escalated.

Gambling had got Joseph into debt, made him homeless and lost him thousands of pounds. He estimates he's lost at least £50,000.

He now helps others with a similar problem and says more needs to be done to help gamblers.

I wouldn't even like to think [how much I've lost] but it's a lot.

It's probably at least £50,000, and I'm only 24. I've only been doing it for six or seven years of my life.

I think there needs to be more stuff out there to help people, especially young people.

– Joseph Nolloth

The Welsh Government gave us the following response:

We recognise that gambling can be a serious issue, but its regulation is not devolved.

When we consulted on the National Survey recently, respondents did not suggest it as a priority topic.

However, we are always keen to explore what more we can do to tackle gambling addiction and the impact it has on communities and families.

– Welsh Government statement