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Your spotlight on local services

Gambling Harm across Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council


It was reported that during the pandemic, and lockdowns, problematic gambling had increased because on-line gambling is so accessible (even though bookmakers were closed). The Gordon Moody Association, which runs residential treatment programmes for people with a severe gambling disorder, said the number of interactions with problem gamblers had increased from 30 a month to 1,000 a month during the period from April to June 2020. The number of calls from people expressing suicidal thoughts reached five a day at the peak of the lockdown.

The gambling commission has produced NATIONAL data on gambling activity since the pandemic broke in the UK in March 2020. A nationally representative sample of 4,007 adults aged 16 and over were interviewed via telephone in March, June, September and December 2020. It found that although in-person gambling, including the national lottery in shops, bingo, racing, football etc, had fallen over the years to a low in 2020, on-line gambling had increased statistically significantly for women and those aged 55+yrs in 2020 (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of online gambling in the previous four weeks, by gender and age

When they removed the on-line national lottery, statistically significant rises were seen in those aged 55+yrs, possibly due to shielding and staying at home full time (no outdoor exercise or food shopping).

Figure 2: Proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of online gambling in the previous four weeks excluding those only playing National Lottery draw products, by gender and age

Further data has shown the main increases on betting were 3% on real events, 2% on virtual events and 18% on poker.

Beacon Trust (based in Merseyside) have evidence some consumers, such as highly engaged gamblers who play a range of products, spent more time and money gambling because sport continued during lockdown and meant there were more opportunities for betting customers to gamble. They also know that some people gambled for the first time.

In a separate survey[1] first time gamblers were gambling on line, with bingo and live sport betting the most popular. Overall 13% of all respondents, including people who gambled pre-pandemic, said they had increased their gambling during the pandemic, with those aged 25-34 more likely to increase their gambling (24%) and those who already gambled (34% said they had increased their gambling).

For those who said their gambling had increased, 39% said this was because they had more time, 35% because they were bored, 33% said because it was still something they could do in lockdown, 22% because they were low / unhappy, 14% had received gambling offers from gambling companies, and 13% to substitute lost income (note some answered more than one category).

Gambling and inequalities:

The harm caused by gambling is unequal in distribution, with those who are economically inactive and living in deprived areas suffering the most harm (Wardle et al 2014).   There is growing evidence that vulnerability to developing problem gambling may be higher within certain population sub-groups, particularly:

• Younger people, particularly men

• Those with other addictions (drugs, alcohol, nicotine)

• Those with mental health difficulties

• Unemployed, economically inactive, low socio-economic status, deprivation

• Some ethnic groups e.g. new migrants

• Children of problem gamblers

Prevalence in Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council

The data suggests there could be between 918 problematic gamblers aged 16+ using the Gambling Commission methodology and 1,982 problematic gamblers aged 18+ using the Northern Cities methodology who live in Blackburn or Darwen.

These estimated figures have been calculated in two different ways by Leeds Beckett university (Northern cities, aged 18+ = prevalence rate of 1.8%) and by the Gambling Commission (national aged 16+ = prevalence rate of 0.8%).  The different rates could be due to a higher concentration of problematic gambling in the more deprived northern towns (Leeds method), as opposed to a national rate including the more affluent areas, with less problematic gambling (Gambling Commission method).

This prevalence may now be higher after the pandemic and three lockdowns, furlough and redundancies.


Source: Sheffield Council gambling JSNA 2017

New data from Gamble Aware shows problematic gambling prevalence at LA and ward level with Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council being in the quintile with the highest prevalence of problematic gambling:

It is recommended a Task & Finish group be established, with partners from across the Borough representing vulnerable groups, including teenage boys, representation from the South Asian communities, homeless support, substance misuse services, domestic violence support and mental health services as well as justice services, to glean further intelligence on how prolific gambling could actually be across Blackburn and Darwen. It could also shed light on the problems this is causing in the community. There may be links to illegal activity, using loan sharks, domestic abuse or other negative factors particularly suicide. It could also determine if the pandemic has had an impact on finances and an increased reliance on gambling. We also need to determine if there is a hidden problem, especially in the South Asian communities where it is under-reported due to gambling not being accepted. Beacon Trust have released a video on gambling in the Asian community.

1.1   Objectives:


  • To improve our understanding of the impact of problematic gambling across the borough
  • To raise awareness with professionals, public and elected members about gambling related harm
  • To make recommendations to inform future needs assessment, strategy development and action planning
  • To disseminate and share the recommendations with key stakeholders and other interested parties
  • To support participants as they attempt to put recommendations into action


1.2   Expected Outcomes:


  • Increased awareness and understanding of gambling related harm with public, professionals and elected members
  • Raised awareness of the powers of residents to contribute to reducing gambling related harms
  • Recommendations to inform local approaches to prevent and address problematic gambling in the borough
  • Reduction in health inequalities identified through problematic gambling.
  • A group of residents committed to taking further action to tackle problematic gambling harm in Blackburn with Darwen.