A losing bet? Alcohol and gambling: investigating parallels and shared solutions

Abstract

Gambling and alcohol use share many parallels. Most notably, the majority of people drink alcohol or gamble at some point in their lives, and report doing so in the previous year. Both the alcohol and gambling industries are huge and their products heavily marketed; indeed, gambling is deemed one of the fastest growing industries in the world.

Unfortunately, excessive gambling and heavy alcohol consumption can lead to problems of addiction. The number of people in the UK who experience problems with gambling is lower than those who misuse alcohol, but still significant and similar to the prevalence of problems related to illicit drugs. It is therefore safe to say that both alcohol and gambling misuse can be regarded as significant health problems, and with adverse consequences to society.

This report takes a closer look at gambling, and its parallels with alcohol. It asks whether public health practitioners who specialise in, or encounter, problematic gambling, can learn lessons from approaches adopted in the alcohol field that have sought to limit alcohol misuse and protect communities from harm. It also includes the results of snapshot survey conducted in Wales of the gambling behaviours of individuals who have accessed local substance misuse services. The survey found that 94% of respondents said that addiction services should consider providing a service for gambling addiction.

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