For many, gambling is a fun activity they participate in every once in a while. A bet on the Grand National for old time’s sake, a flutter during the world cup to support your home team or a weekly lottery ticket to ensure you’re ‘in it to win it’. But for others, putting a bet on can have serious implications.
Research published by Public Health England in September 2021 estimated that around 0.5% of the UK’s adult population, around 246,000 people, are likely to have some form of gambling addiction and that around 2.2 million are either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction. They’re big numbers which reflect a serious problem and one that generally only worsens as an economy enters a period of downturn.
And we know that the harm gambling addiction can cause is wide ranging, extending beyond the individual gambler and touching their families, close friends and wider society. It can lead to significant debt, loss of employment and housing, criminal convictions, alcohol dependence, depression, anxiety and even suicide.
In recognition of this, Safer Gambling Week, taking place between 17 and 23 October 2022, will this year focus on opening up the conversation around problem gambling and encouraging people to engage in responsible betting behaviours, such as limit setting and self-excluding from gambling.
In turn, we’re encouraging employers to consider whether gambling might be a problem within their workforce and to ensure they and their staff are alert to the signs someone might be struggling. This is particularly important given the problems gambling addiction can cause in the context of the workplace – think loss of concentration (particularly problematic for construction and driving roles), erratic behaviour (which can cause issues between colleagues) and even criminality (including theft and fraud).
We’ve listed below a few of the key signs someone might be struggling with gambling addiction or even just the beginnings of problem behaviour. Do remember, of course, that the presence of these behaviours doesn’t mean problematic gambling is definitely the cause, so an open conversation will always be the best first step:
- Declining productivity and increased tardiness and absence: Late nights gambling online or at the casino can cause employees to attend work late, report as sick or be tired during the working day.
- Mood swings: A gambler’s mood may swing as they experience the highs and lows of wins and losses. This can cause their behaviour to appear erratic and unpredictable.
- Preoccupied or distracted staff: As set out above, gamblers often find their concentration is affected by their betting behaviour meaning they’ll appear distracted and disengaged at work.
- Inappropriate use of company telephones: Problem gamblers might use telephones excessively to call in bets and deal with creditors.
- Demands for overtime or advances of pay: Those in debt will often look for ways to generate extra income or access money immediately.
- Excessive time spent online, including on gambling websites: Serious addicts are often unable to control their desires and may visit prohibited websites during working hours despite the existence of a policy warning of the potential consequences.
Many of these signs will be more obvious to colleagues, who are in closer contact with one another, than managers, so it is worth considering providing awareness training to your staff to ensure they are in a position to notice the warning signs and are aware of how to escalate the situation, including reporting their concerns to management in a confidential or even anonymous manner.
And if you or your team are able to spot the signs and an employee does confide in you regarding a gambling problem, it’s key to offer support, rather than judgement and to know how best to assist. It may be that signposting the employee to appropriate sources of support is the best step – GamStop, for example, is a free independent self-exclusion scheme for people with online gambling problems. Alternatively, it may be there are mental health and wellbeing issues at play that require support – you could, for example, consider whether you can offer specialist counselling, perhaps via your Employee Assistant Problem.
Loch Associates Group can work with you to provide mental health and wellbeing services tailored to the needs of your organisation, including Mental Health First Aid training, staff wellbeing workshops, stress and wellbeing policies and health and safety reviews and support. You can contact Loch Associates Group by emailing [email protected].