Council lotteries ‘golden opportunity’ to help gambling addicts

13 Oct 17

This week Essex Council became the first county council to start selling lottery tickets to raise money for ‘good causes’ in its communities.

On Wednesday we published advice from the Gambling Commission on councils setting up lotteries.

Today Marc Etches, chief executive of the charity Gamble Aware, which promotes sensible gambling, explains how councils using lotteries to fund causes can play a key role in spotting problem gamblers.

You may think lotteries are harmless fun, and for many people, of course, they are. Levels of problem gambling amongst lottery players (excluding the National Lottery) are lower than almost all other forms of gambling.

Figures from the Health Survey for England suggest just 2.1% of those who buy such lottery tickets are classified as problem gamblers.

However, with more than seven million adults playing, the number of problem gamblers may be as many as 160,000. So, if you want to reach those who are suffering, then people buying lottery tickets would be a good starting point.

Whether sold on-line or in retail outlets, there should be sufficient information available at the point of sale to direct customers towards the help available, for example through our site, and this should be offered to people as a preventative measure, not only dug out when someone is obviously distressed.

Where tickets are sold in person, staff ought to be trained to spot the signs of problem gambling and empowered to refuse to sell a ticket if they are concerned.  

Lotteries are often managed by External Lottery Managers (ELMs), and we urge authorities to ensure their ELM puts in place robust player protection measures.

This is especially important given that, unlike most other forms of gambling in Britain, you can buy a lottery ticket at the age of 16 or 17.

This means that, for many people, buying a lottery product is likely to be their first introduction to gambling.

As such, local authorities ought to give careful consideration to the potential impact on young people, who are more than twice as likely than the overall adult population to be a problem gambler.

By implementing both online and physical measures to take care of players, local authorities can limit the harm that can arise, and this could be an opportunity to find residents who may have struggled with a gambling problem for many years, but never sought help or even knew help was available.  

Last year, GambleAware helped 8,000 people from an estimated total of 430,000 problem gamblers across Britain. The biggest barrier to treating more people in need is the hidden nature of this particular addiction.  

Responsible local authorities launching lotteries have a golden opportunity to help people who would benefit from our services. GambleAware is ready to offer advice to council staff as they take that step.

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