Published: April 12, 2023

Psychiatrists warn gamblers ahead of Grand National horse race

Problem gamblers are being encouraged to take preventative steps, such as putting blocks on betting websites, ahead of the annual Grand National horse race which runs on Saturday.

They may include betting caps and industry taxes to fund addiction care.

The White Paper, which is expected to deliver the biggest shake-up of the gambling industry in more than two decades, was first announced in late 2020 but its publication has been repeatedly delayed.

It is estimated that the Grand National race, at Aintree, Liverpool, is watched by a global audience of around 600 million people.

According to the Betting and Gaming Council, some 13 million adults in the UK will place bets totalling around £250m.

Annually, the race generates £3m in tax revenues for the Treasury.

Not everyone who gambles develops a gambling disorder, but it is estimated there are between 250,000 and 460,000 problem gamblers in Great Britain.

According to new analysis by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the fiscal cost of harmful gambling to the UK is £1.4bn per year, linked to higher welfare payments and increased healthcare needs.

Prof Henrietta Bowden-Jones, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "While millions of people will enjoy betting on the Grand National, others who struggle to control their gambling may find this weekend particularly challenging.

"If you have a gambling disorder, it is important to seek help from specialist NHS clinics and put appropriate self-exclusion agreements in place to stop you from gambling online and in person.

"You could also install blocking software to prevent access to gambling websites."

Signs of problem gambling can include:

  • Betting more than you can afford
  • Feelings of guilt about your gambling
  • Other people noticing and commenting on your behaviour
  • Continuing to bet in order to to win back lost money

Gambling disorder is marked by a repeated pattern of behaviour where an individual feels they've lost control, continues to gamble despite negative consequences and sees gambling as more important than anything else.

Left untreated, it can lead to significant depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, says Prof Bowden-Jones. It is estimated hundreds of suicides each year are linked to problem gambling.

Prof Bowden-Jones said: "If you think you may have a gambling problem, speak to your GP who can refer you to a specialist clinic for treatment."

Many banks now offer the ability to limit or block spending on gambling.

Gambling blocking software can be downloaded onto devices, as can apps such as GamBan, which allows a person to block any access to gambling websites or other online gambling services.

Support for addiction issues is also available via the BBC Action Line.

© Public Gaming Research Institute. All rights reserved.