Coronavirus: NHS fears 'new wave' of gambling addiction

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Gamblers could struggle during the coronavirus crisis as isolation leads them into addiction and debt, an NHS clinic has warned.

The clinic, in Leeds, expects a rise in referrals during the pandemic as people have more time on their hands, coupled with financial and job insecurity.

Following the cancellation of sports, it is feared gamblers are turning to addictive online casinos.

The NHS Northern Gambling Service is offering video support amid the crisis.

Clinical lead Matthew Gaskell said: "There are a range of risk factors in place at the moment: social isolation, boredom, stress, financial and job insecurity and the opportunity to gamble online.

"While a lot of sports betting has stopped, we are expecting a rise in referrals further down the line. It takes time for gambling harm to spread across someone's life and for them to realise they have a problem.

"We are concerned that the next wave of gambling addiction will happen under these circumstances and that customers are not being adequately protected."

image captionChris Murphy warned people against "looking to fill a void and moving to harmful forms of gambling"

Chris Murphy, from Leeds, said his gambling addiction got to the stage where he tried to take his own life.

Mr Murphy, who has not placed a bet for about 16 months, said: "Isolation is a big risk factor. As with many addictions, gambling can be an isolated act; particularly online gambling. You can effectively be sat in a casino in your own house.

"Certainly the insecurities people are feeling now, financially and emotionally, can be played on. I would just urge anyone thinking of solving these insecurities by gambling to take a step back..."

Anyone worried about their gambling has been urged to use Gamstop, a service which blocks gambling websites and apps.

A group of 20 MPs recently wrote to the Betting and Gambling Council calling for stricter measures on gambling during the crisis.

The Betting and Gaming Council has set out standards expected of its members .

Chief executive Michael Dugher said: "In this time of national crisis, with so many people self-isolating and social distancing at home, it is vital that we do everything possible to ensure safer gambling and to protect potentially vulnerable or at risk people."

If you or someone you know has been affected by addiction, help and support is available at bbc.co.uk/actionline

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