NatWest to Offer Specialised Help to Problem Gamblers in 13 Branches
According to the Gambling Commission, the public body responsible for regulating the gambling industry in Great Britain, that also regularly collects data on problem gambling, 0.7% of people aged 16+ in the UK are classed as problem gamblers.
In addition to around 340,000 people that have a serious gambling problem, there are also about 550,000 adults in Great Britain that suffer from moderate gambling-related harm.
The Impact of Problem Gambling
A report commissioned by the grant-making charity GambleAware in December 2016 showed that problem gambling costs the UK up to £1,2 billion a year, with the vast majority of these costs i.e. around £260 million being racked up in the criminal justice and welfare systems as well as the health service.
According to campaigners, this estimate did not even take into account the economic impact on families and employers.
A more recent study, commissioned by GambleAware in July this year found that gambling addicts were 6 times more prone to have suicidal thoughts and 15 times more prone to attempt suicide.
High-Street Lender NatWest Lends a Helping Hand to Problem Gamblers
National Westminster Bank, known as NatWest, one of the retail banking subsidiaries of the RBS Group will pilot a pioneering scheme aimed at helping those that suffer from compulsive gambling and minimising gambling-related harm.
The scheme essentially consists of making use of floor space in 13 NatWest branches ( including 10 in London alone) to provide free counselling sessions with gambling addiction specialists from GamCare, and it could be expanded to more of its branches across the UK.
One of the Big Four clearing banks in Britain, NatWest wants to lend a helping hand to anyone affected by problem gambling in a “neutral and accessible environment”, according to Phil Sheehy, Head of Lending.
Getting specialised help is the first step towards gambling addiction recovery, but many people do not feel comfortable setting foot in an addiction centre.
By offering much-needed, free and confidential counselling sessions in a discreet environment to anyone that needs professional help with their gambling problem, NatWest is confident that the pilot scheme will significantly increase the number of problem gamblers that reach out for help.
This is especially true given that the free counselling sessions provided by GamCare’s experts will be available to non-customers of the bank as well.
In addition, NatWest joins other major lenders such as Barclays, Starling, and Monzo in a sustained effort to further tackle problem gambling in Britain.
More specifically, NatWest also allows its customers to effectively block gambling transactions on their credit cards and bank accounts via its app.
More Partnerships with Gambling Charities Are In Order
Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport recently said that more consumer banking companies need to partner with gambling charities such as GamCare so that they can offer specialised help to customers who are affected by problem gambling.
Major banks, social media platforms, bookmakers and any other businesses with connections to the gambling industry must be “socially responsible” and harness the power of data and technology to effectively protect people from gambling-related harm, according to Nicky Morgan, who will closely monitor the progress of NatWest’s pilot scheme.
She urged other high-street banks to follow suit as soon as possible to minimise gambling-related harm.
Customers’ spending habits come to the banks’ attention especially when serious financial losses with online casinos/ bookmakers, or other potentially harmful patterns are identified.
GamCare’s development director, Mike Kenward confirmed that high-street banks, in particular, are in an extraordinary position to protect customers and help those who struggle with problem gambling, because there is an established link between gambling addiction and financial issues.
Mr. Kenward added that GamCare would also assist with training 600 NatWest employees to be able to help vulnerable customers who seek help to stop betting.
GamCare to Provide Support in 13 NatWest Branches
Nine counselling locations where GamCare’s expert services would soon be available have already been listed –Stratford, Ealing, Camden, Ilford, Wood Green, Lewisham and Twickenham in London, Haywards Heath in West Sussex and Margate in Kent, while the other four are yet to be confirmed.