Just a flutter - When does gambling become a problem?

The Grand National is fast approaching, an event that the bookies and gamblers will be relishing, but there are those for whom it is just another opportunity for their betting to spiral into an even greater problem.

The big betting companies enjoy the boom in business large events, meets and tournaments offer. An event such as the Grand National produces an inevitable jump in betting activity. Given this, those with a gambling problem can easily be lost in the flood, leading to difficulty in recognising those for whom gambling has become a problem.

There are many who gamble sensibly and responsibly, but at what point does it constitute a problem?

How are the betting companies doing?

Despite a rise in taxes and a significant increase in gambling duties (such as a 15% duty on online betting), the UK's biggest betting firms reported strong 2015 figures. The UK's leading bookmaker, William Hill, reported a 22% decline in operating profits. However, when excluding the increase in duties and tax they posted a 2% increase, and they are confident they can continue to fulfil their growth strategy. Paddy Power also saw their revenue top £1billion for the first time. It seems the major UK betting companies are overcoming the challenges the market and legislation are producing and continuing to score successes.

With this in mind the opportunities for gambling addicts to bet look more likely to proliferate than subside, particularly with projected investment in the digital side of the industry.

Gambling made easier with smart phone apps

Gambling on the go has become far easier with the rise of smart phone apps, and, through sponsorship and the heavy advertising campaigns run by firms such as Bet 365, Paddy Power and Betfair, amongst others, they are ever-present in media. As the range of markets expands, such as the ascendance of in-play betting, the opportunities to gamble are expand too. The possibility of recouping any losses can be driven by the lure of easy-access betting. In-play betting is a prominent addition to football gambling, with sites such as Bet 365 funding heavy advertising during every interval of games. 

Accessibility and anonymity for gamblers are at their peak, broadening the market for all and allowing problem gamblers to slip under the radar.

With the flourishing popularity in gambling across all channels, what can be done when the occasional bet turns into a serious problem?....

Gambling warning signs

It is important to see the patterns and be able to recognise the symptoms of a gambling addiction. To distinguish between a gambling addict from a responsible gambler it is necessary to know what to look for.

Gambling addiction symptoms can include:




A preoccupation with gambling



Loss of interest in usual hobbies/pastimes


Stomach upsets

Increase in money spent on bets


Lack of sleep

Refusal to discuss the potential problem with gambling


Concealing the amount of money lost

Breakdown of relationships with loved ones/friends

Hiding financial worries

Stealing money to gamble

Social isolation

Getting help

To recognise you have a problem is the first step of the recovery journey. Our expert, Dr Paul McLaren of the Priory Hospital Hayes Grove, explains how best to seek help and what treatment is available.

Worried about a loved one?

Supporting a loved one with a gambling problem is tough, try reading our top tips on how to help someone get support.

For further information about gambling addictions, or to talk in confidence about your problem, please call 0800 840 3219