Gambling Commission to strengthen guidance on suicide risks

19 July 2019

The Gambling Commission has announced that it will work with the Samaritans to strengthen requirements for operators in relation to identifying those at risk of suicide due to problem gambling.

The programme of works was developed after new analysis of data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) in 2007, which found that 5% of problem gamblers had attempted suicide in the previous year.

The fresh analysis, published today (19 July) in a report commissioned by GambleAware, also showed that 5% of those who had attempted suicide in the previous year were problem gamblers, with a further 5% classed as ‘at risk’ gamblers.

While conceding the data the report was based on was relatively dated, Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, said: “Nonetheless, the findings clearly show a connection between suicide and gambling, something that has a real and devastating impact on people’s lives.

“Whilst further research and more timely data collection is essential, we are taking further action now to protect people from the risk of gambling harm.”

One reason more recent data is unavailable is because while the APMS survey, undertaken by the Department of Health and Social Care, was repeated in 2014, it did not include questions related to gambling.

GambleAware said it hoped another APMS would be commissioned in 2021 and that it would explore further the link between gambling and suicide.

"There is limited data and research on the link between gambling and suicide and this research is just the start," GambleAware chief executive Marc Etches said. "This report has clearly identified the significant gaps in the data that is currently available and what steps we should be taking to get more evidence to help improve our knowledge and understanding of the relationship between gambling and suicide.”

Heather Wardle, assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and one of the recent report’s authors, added: “The harms from gambling are profound and can be devastating for individuals, families and communities.

"These results show how people with gambling problems are a higher risk group for suicidality. Everyone involved in providing, legislating and regulating gambling should recognise this risk and take action to prevent harm.”

As a result of the research, the Gambling Commission and the Samaritans will develop new guidance for the gambling industry to make sure operators are responding appropriately to the risks around suicide.

GambleAware will also fund a pilot programme to extend the hours for GamCare’s National Gambling helpline to 24 hours a day for two years.