Feature Addiction

Gambling with the nation's health

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39182.424965.AD (Published 19 April 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:828
  1. John Middleton, director of public health1,
  2. Farid Latif, senior house officer, paediatrics2
  1. 1Sandwell Primary Care Trust, West Bromwich B70 9LD
  2. 2Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, Telford
  1. Correspondence to: J Middleton John.middleton{at}sandwell-pct.nhs.uk

    Decisions about building casinos in the UK have not given enough weight to the potential health effects, argue John Middleton and Farid Latif

    In March the House of Lords threw out government proposals to build the UK's first Las Vegas-style super casino in Manchester and build 16 other casinos around the country.1 This decision reflects polarised views about the costs and benefits of liberalised gambling in the United Kingdom, but the health dimension of the debate has been lacking.1 The UK currently has a low prevalence of problem gamblers, estimated to be 0.6%.2 By contrast the rate in the United States is about 2.8%, although rates vary across states. In New Jersey, the home of Atlantic City, the US's second largest casino resort, the prevalence of problem gambling is 4.2%.3

    However, the UK's low rates seem likely to increase when the Gambling Act 2005 is implemented. The act will give the British public more access to gambling facilities than ever before. In the year after a casino was opened in Niagara, not only did gambling rise but the percentage of residents reporting two or more gambling problems rose from 2.5% to 4.4% and those having one or more problems increased from 9.6% to 12%.4

    What is problem gambling?

    Gambling refers to any game of chance or skills that involves a financial risk. Problem gambling is defined by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as “persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behaviour that disrupts personal, family or vocational pursuits.”5 It describes a progressive disorder characterised by continuous or periodic loss of control over gambling; a preoccupation with …

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