Gambling Related Harms

Author: Magdalena Boo, Health Improvement Principal, Sheffield City Council

Published Date: May 2023

Date to Review: May 2024


Problem gambling is a hidden problem with high stigma which has serious mental health and financial impacts on individuals and their families – these impacts can last for a long time.  It is estimated that around 1.8% of adults in Sheffield are problem gamblers and a further 5-6% are gambling at risk. It is also estimated that around 6 people close to the problem gambler will experience gambling related harms which may include relationship, financial, and mental health problems. Those most vulnerable to developing problems are men – in particular younger men – and those with other mental health difficulties and addictions. 

A simple 2 question screening tool (Lie Bet) has been used successfully in primary care and other settings to identify individuals who may be experiencing problems with their gambling and who would benefit from help and support.

There is help available in our region from both the NHS (Northern Gambling Service) and from third-sector provider Krysallis and this includes both talking treatments such as motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioural therapy and (from the Northern Gambling Service) medications which can help reduce the urge to gamble such as naltrexone. There is also self-help support available through the Gamcare National Gambling Helpline and online tools which includes help to self-exclude from gambling settings as well as behaviour change tools. Sheffield has an active peer-peer support community for gambling through Gamblers Anonymous and Smart Recovery in Sheffield also welcome gamblers to their meetings. 

This (embedded PDF) flow chart guides affected individuals or clinicians through the screening process and enables them to identify which support is most appropriate for them at that time.  Clinicians can help engagement in support services by completing online referral forms for patients and booking follow up GP appointments to check progress and engagement.  There is low engagement in help-seeking and help is often only sought in a crisis such as a mental health or financial crisis, so if someone does present for help it is likely that they are at a very low point. There are emerging links between problem gambling and suicide so it is important to assess whether there is any immediate risk and follow suicide prevention protocols.