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Gambling Commission restates firm commitment to reducing harm as research into suicidal behaviour is published

19 July 2019

The Gambling Commission has reiterated its commitment to reduce gambling harms as analysis of existing data indicating the link between problem gambling and suicide is published.

The reports are part of the Commission’s research programme for the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms and were commissioned by GambleAware. The findings show a connection between problem gambling and suicidal thoughts or attempts.

The research was based on data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey in 2007 and found that 5% of problem gamblers had attempted suicide in the previous year. The research also found that 5% of people who had attempted suicide in the previous year were problem gamblers, with a further 5% classed as ‘at risk’ gamblers. This trend persisted after other factors such as mental health and substance abuse were taken into account. 19% of problem gamblers had also thought about suicide in the previous year.

Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, said:

“This research is based on data from 2007 but nonetheless the findings clearly show a connection between suicide and gambling, something that has a real and devastating impact on people’s lives. Whilst further research and more timely data collection is essential, we are taking further action now to protect people from the risk of gambling harm.

“As a result of this research, the Commission and Samaritans will work together to bolster the existing requirements on gambling businesses to identify those at risk and take action to address and reduce harm.

“However, progress cannot be made by us alone, we need to work together to implement the priorities outlined in the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms, and the key recommendations of this research. This is vital to ensuring we have the best research, prevention and treatment services available for vulnerable individuals, their families, friends and communities.”

The work programme which the Commission and Samaritans have agreed to develop will include guidance to sit alongside the Commission’s requirements for the gambling industry to ensure operators are responding appropriately to risks around suicide.

In addition, the gambling support charity GamCare will pilot an extension to the National Gambling helpline hours to 24 hours a day for a period of two years to better support vulnerable customers. This pilot will be funded by GambleAware and comes as a result of this research.

The Gambling Commission has undertaken a significant amount of work to prevent harm, including:

  • imposing stronger requirements on how gambling companies must identify and interact with at risk customers and providing detailed guidance in support of those requirements
  • enforcement - using powers to take action where gambling companies, and key people that work for them, fail to protect consumers from harm or take accountability - alongside issuing penalties of £19.6million for social responsibility breaches and anti-money laundering failings
  • compliance – undertaking over 3,000 compliance assessments over three years to ensure operators are protecting consumers
  • evaluating how products are offered and marketed to consumers, and taking action to remove high risk products from the market. For example issuing a warning against products which undermined recent restrictions to FOBT machines
  • strengthening age and identity verification to provide further online protections and ensuring that online operators showcase what they are doing to raise standards
  • calling for evidence on a potential ban on credit card usage for online gambling.

In addition to regulatory action, further partnership working and research is vital. We will:

  • work with partners to identify how the recommendations to put in place greater support for those who have been bereaved by suicide can be implemented
  • deepen our understanding with further research to measure and prevent suicides linked to gambling
  • support the development of care pathways to deliver support for those experiencing gambling harms at an earlier stage
  • work with charities in the financial sector to further explore the role banks and other financial institutions can play in identifying and supporting those at risk.

Support and guidance is available for those suffering from gambling harm. People can talk for free to GamCare advisors through the National Problem Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133 or through their online support service.

Samaritans provides a free confidential phone service at any time from any phone on 116 123 - even a mobile without credit, and the number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or email or go to (opens in new tab) to find details of your nearest branch where you can talk to one of their trained volunteers face to face.

The three research documents are available below, along with a summary of the key findings and recommendations.

Report 1: Problem gambling and suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-harm in England evidence from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007 (opens in new tab)

Report 2: Exploring problem gambling, loneliness and lifetime suicidal behaviours a cross-sectional study using the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007.

Report 3: Scoping Current Evidence and Evidence-Gaps in Research on Gambling-Related Suicide.

Executive summary.

Note to editors

  • The survey was conducted over a decade ago and the sample was relatively small, with just 172 people identified as at risk of problem gambling and 41 identified as problem gamblers. Both problem gambling and past-year suicide attempts/thoughts are relatively rare, and the analyses were underpowered. The survey is cross-sectional in design and the data cannot be used to establish temporal sequencing in problem gambling and suicidality, nor causality.
  • The Commission’s Research Programme (opens in new tab) in support of the National Strategy includes an emphasis on measuring and understanding harm. A better understanding of gambling harms for adults and children and young people will help to target prevention and education initiatives where they will have most impact.

For all media enquiries, please contact the Gambling Commission press office.

Last updated: 9 August 2021

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