How does gambling affect family and friends?

I recently attended a seminar about gambling-related financial harm, hosted by GamCare. This blog focuses on the devastating impacts gambling addictions can have on family, friends, and colleagues. I will use the term ‘affected others’ to represent those most impacted by someone who is addicted to gambling.

It is estimated that up to 6 affected others will be impacted by each gambler. The consequences include debt, relationships, stress, anxiety, depression, shame, anger, and sometimes domestic or economic abuse. The challenge is how to reach the affected others when the focus is mostly on helping the gambler to overcome their addiction. When we do consider the affected others, we can focus on the amount of money lost above the loss on relationships and mental health.

There is a strong emotional pull from family members to help another family member. Without the right support, this family’s kindness could prolong the gambling addiction. It is important for affected others to seek help from gambling support charities to get the right advice. To access support an affected other can phone The National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133 or contact the NHS Gambling Support.

It can be complicated for affected others to discover the extent of a gamblers debts as they may have borrowed from so many bank accounts, credit cards, friends, family, and colleagues. Those with a serious addiction may have lost track of all the sources they have borrowed money from over a long time period. Borrowing from friends, family and colleagues often are done without written records, and certainly, none of such lending would appear on credit searches.

Gambling websites can have activity blocks set up. Bank accounts can have a gambling block set up, which takes 24 hours to lift. That may be long enough for the immediate desire to gamble again to pass. Whilst all these measures are helpful to curb online gambling, there is continued access to high street betting shops. These take cash, and banks cannot so easily put a block on cash withdrawals. Cash gambling maintains anonymity, whereas online gambling requires registration.

Bear with me on the next paragraph as I intend it to be complex to show how complicated it is for affected others to repair their credit score. The impacts of debts on affected others can impact their credit score if they are married to a gambler. If an option to pay off debts is to re-mortgage a property, a lower credit score will result in higher lending rates. There are ways affected others can update credit scoring agencies through an arrangement called a ‘notice of disassociation’ which can flag a disconnection with a previously linked individual. And a ‘notice of correction’ can be set up to prevent any automated lending to an individual. This will need to be set up with all three major credit scoring agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. As you can see, first understanding these matters and then having to set them up is strenuous for an affected other.

Restore York provides support to any resident who may have a gambling addiction, but the seminar has helped me to find ways where Restore York can maybe do more by better understanding the impacts on affected others. We currently work actively in helping residents reconnect with family, where that is possible. We have updated our Resident Support Framework to accommodate what I learned at the seminar so we can put learning into practice for all residents.

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Every blessing.

Duncan Craig

Restore York CEO

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels