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15 February 2011

Press release

Churches call government to act on problem gambling rise

Churches call government to act on problem gambling rise

The Government must take urgent action in response to a report showing a rise in the number of problem gamblers, say a group of churches.

The churches want local councils to have the power to limit the number of gambling premises in their areas.

Paul Morrison, of the Methodist Church, said: "The government must stop putting industry profit before prevention. Localism should mean that local councils have the power to regulate what happens in their communities and ensure it is to the benefit of all."

Gareth Wallace, of the Salvation Army, said: "When we campaigned against many of the original proposals to liberalise gambling, we were very concerned that problem gambling would increase. Another key concern was the normalisation of gambling. There are now nearly half a million problem gamblers in this country. This is far too many and the Government must now commit to halt its plans to raise the stakes of gaming machines and permit arcades and bingo halls to expand in number."

The comment comes in response to the Gambling Commission 2010 Prevalence Study. 

The report showed there has been a small increase in the overall number of people gambling and those classed as problem gamblers has also risen.

Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs at the Church of England, added: "Problem gamblers become sucked into a distorted view of reality and often drag themselves and their families into insecurity and poverty. This is not just a matter of personal morality and character, but a problem exacerbated by the values communicated by the wider social and policy context."

In 2007 68 per cent of people gambled in the past year. This is compared to 73 per cent in 2010. By one of the two research screens used, problem gambling rose from 0.6 per cent to 0.9 per cent. It is estimated that there are between 360-450,000 problem gamblers in the UK - that's compared to 284,000 in 2007.

Daniel Webster, of the Evangelical Alliance, said: "In tough economic times, it's all too easy to place a bet as a quick fix answer to get a cash windfall. The reality is, only a small minority come out as winners. The big winners are the betting shops and casinos."

Reverend Ian Galloway, Convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said: "I'm deeply troubled by the level of problem gambling associated with gaming machines. This form of gambling is solitary and repetitive. These high value machines in betting shops turn every high street into a casino."

In the past year nearly three quarters of the population took part in some form of gambling. If the National Lottery is excluded this figure would fall to 56 per cent but this is still higher than the 2007 figure of 48 per cent. 

The report has found that problem gamblers are more likely to be young men, who suffer poor health and have a family history of problem gambling.

Helena Chambers, of Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs, noted: "Problem gamblers and their families often suffer stress, ill-health and debt. It's vital that they are supported, and the government does not risk any further increase."

Due to government cuts the Gambling Commission suggested that this could be the last prevalence study of this kind.

Mr Wallace, from the Salvation Army, went on to say, "With increased problem gambling, the Government must fund another equivalent prevalence study and be committed to keeping track of the really serious cultural impact of gambling. This is not the time to be walking blindfolded into an increase in problem gambling.' 

According to this report 14 per cent of people now use the internet to gamble, while problem gambling rates associated with online slot machine type games is among the highest. 

Nola Leach Head of Public Affairs and CEO of CARE, commented: "This shows how essential it is that the government urgently develop a rigorous framework for ensuring that internet gambling is properly regulated."

Media Enquiries

Danny Webster
Tel: 07766 444 650
Email: d.webster@eauk.org

Notes to Editors

The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.