More young betting addicts as gambling becomes easier
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More and more young people and even children as young as 11 are getting addicted to gambling as wagering money online becomes easier, according to a Norfolk expert.
It is a worrying trend that is growing in the county according to counsellor Nuno Leitao, who provides support to gambling addicts from the Norwich branch of Breakeven, a GamCare counselling partner.
A survey conducted by the Gambling Commission in November 2018 found 14pc of 11-16 year olds had spent their own money on a gambling activity in the week prior to taking part in the study, which equates to around 450,000 children nationally.
Some of the most popular forms of gambling amongst youngsters includes private bets, scratchcards, slot machines and online gambling.
Mr Leitao said the majority of the clients he counsels - some 500 from across the county - around 80pc are aged between 18-25.
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'Unfortunately, gambling addiction is increasing,' he said. 'Because gambling online is becoming easier. 'I have more and more youngsters coming in for help but I am only qualified to help those over 18.
'We estimate that around 60,000 youngsters between 11-18 are gambling a week nationally, on things like roulette, bingo, football and horses.'
After this week's jailing of gambling addict Steven Girling for four years, Mr Leitao hopes to educate the public on the impact gambling can have on an addict's mental health and wellbeing.
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'Around one in five gambling addicts commit suicide, more than drug and alcohol,' he said. 'It's really shocking for me, I didn't know the numbers would be as devastating as they are.
'With alcohol and drugs, people are sympathetic because you can see the side effects, but with gambling the way the brain is affected it's the same as drug and alcohol. 'Without professional help it's difficult for them to stop, there is a need for treatment.'
But with minimal funding and services like NORCAS - which provided gambling counselling in Norwich - closing down, Mr Leitao hopes education will tackle the problem from the source rather than mask the addiction.
One of the ways this can be achieved, he said, is for more political will to change the law, particularly with reducing the amount someone could gamble, cutting gambling ads and minimising the number of betting shops opening on the high street.