Talk Money, Talk Gambling: The importance of reducing stigma

By Katie Cross

It’s Talk Money Week, a fantastic initiative to encourage people to open up about their financial worries. There are many reasons why people don’t like to talk about money but one reason revolves around shame and the concern people have about being judged.  This is very relevant when it comes to gambling disorder, sometimes called the ‘hidden’ or ‘invisible’ addiction.

People with gambling disorder don’t present with physical symptoms in the same way as drug or alcohol addiction which can make them difficult to detect. The perceived stigma associated with gambling disorder can lead people to feel ashamed, which may result in them hiding their gambling in order to avoid being judged, and refrain from seeking help or treatment.

It is reported that only 2 in 10 people experiencing harms arising from gambling (17%) sought treatment over the last year, rising to 54% for ‘problem gamblers’. This means that 83% of those experiencing some level of harm from gambling, and around half of ‘problem gamblers’, aren’t seeking support, of which 11% and 27% respectively reported ‘stigma and shame’ as a reason for not doing so. Moreover, this stigma and shame can actually lead to an increase in gambling activity, as gamblers might try to win back the money before a loved one finds out, or gamble more as a way of escaping painful emotions. Therefore, addressing stigma is vital if we want to reduce harm and encourage more people to seek help.

Talking to a loved one about gambling disorder can provide the encouragement needed, with 1 in 5 ‘problem gamblers’ saying this would motivate them to seek support. Although potentially a difficult conversation to initiate, it could make a big difference. The Money and Pensions Service guides offer advice on how to start a conversation about money with a loved one. Not everyone has someone to talk to though, and there are also some great podcasts out there from people with lived experience of gambling harms that aim to offer support to those affected and further our understanding of this complex issue.

In addition, we believe there is a strong rationale for the financial services industry to play a greater role in reducing gambling harms. One obvious way to do this is responsible lending. In addition, having access to transaction data puts financial services firms in a unique position to spot early warning signs of gambling disorder. They have the opportunity to reach out to customers, for example by offering budgeting tools, ATM withdrawal limits, spending limits or bank card gambling blocks, all of which might go some way to reducing gambling harms.

Information and help for people with gambling disorder:

Information and help for people affected by someone else’s gambling:

Talk Money, Talk Gambling: How can financial firms help people affected by someone else’s gambling?

By Sharon Collard

Talk Money Week aims to increase people’s sense of financial wellbeing by encouraging them to open up about their personal finances. For people with gambling disorder, feelings of stigma and shame can make this challenging. Added to this, harms that arise from gambling are often hidden and only become visible following major crises such as extreme debt or relationship breakdown. These events also have a devastating impact on family members. This blog looks at how financial firms can help people affected by someone else’s gambling.

For every person with a gambling disorder, between six and ten other people are affected. An estimated 7% of Britain’s adult population (around 3.6m people) have personally experienced negative effects from someone else’s gambling – usually someone in their immediate family – with harms arising from gambling impacting their relationships, mental wellbeing and finances.

The gambling literature highlights ways in which affected others can help and support those with gambling disorder. In Singapore, family members can act on behalf of someone with a gambling disorder and arrange for them to be excluded from gambling venues. In New Zealand, gambling outlets receive guidance encouraging them to do all they can to take notifications from third parties (such as family members or friends) into account, as these are one of the most common indicators of gambling harms.

For UK financial services firms – the focus of our MAGPIE programme – this raises questions about whether they might accept requests from affected others to help reduce the financial harm caused by someone else’s gambling, such as activating a bank card gambling block, setting ATM limits or restricting access to credit. New guidance from the Money Advice Liaison Group and the Money Advice Trust sets out the practical actions that firms can take to manage disclosures of vulnerability such as gambling disorder, including disclosures from carers and other third parties, while also taking GDPR into account (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The CARERS protocol to help frontline staff manage disclosures from carers and third parties (From Vulnerability, GDPR, and disclosure: A practical guide for creditors and advisers)

Equally, affected others may benefit from help and support themselves to protect their money and wellbeing. A Citizens Advice survey found that 69% of affected others had to cover the costs or debts of the gambler – and in some cases felt coerced into this.

In the first year of the MAGPIE programme, we talked to many people with lived experience of gambling harm. One common theme was their desire for financial services firms and other professionals to develop a better understanding of gambling disorder and gambling harm. In the words of one participant: “Banks and financial institutions need to be educated about the illness [of disordered gambling]”. This is one of the areas we will focus on in our second MAGPIE project – a practical guide to help financial services firms better understand and support people affected by gambling.

Information and help for people affected by someone else’s gambling:

Information and help for people with gambling disorder: