'Treat gambling addiction as illness,' says expert after tax adviser jailed
PUBLISHED: 09:22 05 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:22 05 July 2019
A counsellor warned today how the availability of gambling was turning thousands of people into addicts.
Nuno Leitao, who works at the Charing Cross Centre in Norwich, has treated more than 700 gambling addicts in the last seven years.
"In my experience it is easier to get people off drugs and alcohol than gambling," he said.
"It is harder because it is available everywhere and there is no limit to what you can spend.
"I've seen people spend £100,000 a week."
Speaking as tax adviser Tim Bash was jailed after stealing from clients to feed his gambling addiction, he called for it to be treated as an illness.
"This illness is difficult to control," he said. "I'm not against gambling but I'm against how it is everywhere."
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Mr Leitao, 63, said the highs addicts got from gambling through their brain releasing dopamine was equivalent to taking drugs.
"Eventually it is not about the money any more," he said. "It is about having that high that dopamine gives you."
Speaking about addicts who keep it hidden and commit crimes to fund their addiction, he said: "They become skilled liars, that is how they get away with it for years.
"They are embarrassed. They just want a big win but they don't realise that the big win will not take them away from their problems.
"One gambler affects on average 14 other people but the decision for therapy has to come from them."
The industry has pledged to increase funding for problem gamblers from £10m to £100m and Mr Leitao warned more treatment centres would be needed,
He is now opening a retreat in Portugal for addicts in the UK to get treatment.
If you'd like to speak to someone about gambling contact Breakeven on 01273 833722 or charity GamCare on 0808 8020 133