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Child gambling is a form of self-harm – it’s too complex for a quick-fix clinic

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25.06.2019

Almost half a million children in England and Wales are gambling regularly, with about 55,000 estimated to have a serious problem. Suicide rates for gambling addicts are high, and gambling-related problems cause stress for individuals and families. In response, the NHS has opened its first children’s gambling clinic, offering face-to-face treatment – mostly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Out-of-control gambling is linked to complex individual and social problems – including stress, anxiety and other mental health issues such as bipolar disorder. CBT attempts to tackle the behaviour by dismantling some of the common beliefs and attitudes around it. Gamblers may be encouraged to set themselves realistic limits, fulfil their financial obligations before spending on betting, and to think of gambling as a form of entertainment as opposed to a means of making money.

It’s all very sensible, and is surely a helpful starting point. But it fails to address the unscrupulousness of an industry that targets children by normalising risky practices, couching bets in kid-friendly video games or the deeper mental processes that might lead a person to take serious risks with their own or their family’s money and possessions.

Of course not everyone who gambles has a problem – gambling covers everything from buying a lottery ticket to risking your house in a game of roulette. Betting on anything from tennis to future Tory leaders may be seen........

© The Guardian