A report leaked from a special study by UK'S Metropolitan police, stating that the establishment of supercasinos has led to an increase in crime and anti- social behavior has put the spotlight on problem gamblers.
Doctors from the British Medical Association (BMA), in their report: Gambling Addiction and its Treatment within the UK, have urged the National Health Service to come out with stronger support and treatment for gamblers, as gambling can now be termed as a serious addiction.
The rise in gambling can be attributed to the rise of online gambling sites, which have spread like wildfire among Internet users. At present there are almost 30, 000 problem gamblers in Britain, and the figures are rising.
According to reports of a previous study involving more than 8000 adolescents, it was found that 17 per cent played fruit machines at least once a week. Other research showed that up to 6 per cent of adolescent fruit machine players are "pathological gamblers", which the BMA report gives it as two to three times higher than in the adult population.
"On this evidence, young people are clearly more vulnerable to the negative consequences of gambling than adults", according to the report.
The BMA has strongly recommended that gambling operators, which draw an income of 9 billion pounds, should provide at least 10 million pound for treatment of problem gamblers.
Says BMA's head of science and ethics, Vivienne Nathanson: Problem gambling is associated with a number of health problems and the BMA is concerned that there are insufficient treatment facilities available. Psychological problems can include anxiety, depression, guilt and suicidal thoughts. There needs to be treatment for problem gambling available on the NHS similar to drug and alcohol services.
The report also calls for a review of the laws on slot machines and suggests banning anyone under 18 from using them.
The report links gambling with other juvenile delinquent behavior and cautions that truancy could be explained by involvement in gambling.
The report has also strongly recommended that GPs be given training to recognize gamblers who are seriously addicted as well as for special treatment methods.