THE Swindon branch of Gamblers Anonymous is reaching out to members old and new as numbers at the meetings fall.

The organisation uses mutual support and advice to help problem gamblers to break their compulsion.

But spokesman ‘John’ said he’d noticed a slight decline in attendance recently, with numbers dropping from a previous average of around 45 people.

He is also anxious to promote GA to compulsive gamblers who have never attended a meeting and are unaware of their benefits.

“Attendance is tailing off,” John said. “I don’t know whether it’s because of the summer holidays, family and friends saying people are ‘cured’ or members saying to themselves that they’ve now got to concentrate on other things in life.”

John believes the results for the people staying away could be disastrous. He sees compulsive gambling as a psychological counterpart to a chronic physical illness which needs regular check-ups and treatment.

He added: “If people don’t go to meetings, their likelihood of falling back into old habits is higher.

“Attending meetings on a regular basis is the cornerstone of recovery. I suggest at least one meeting a week is a good yardstick.”

GA was founded in 1957 in Los Angeles, and reached Britain in 1964. Like many other groups devoted to helping with compulsions, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, it uses a 12-step programme to aid recovery. The first of these steps is admitting powerlessness over gambling.

The Swindon branch meets at Gorse Hill Community Centre on Saturdays from 10am until noon, Sundays from 2.15pm until 4pm, and Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7pm until 9pm.

There are no fees, although it is helpful if members can find at least £2 to help with the cost of refreshments and other costs. This doesn’t apply to new members.

John said: “The only things new members need to bring to their first meeting are themselves and a desire to stop gambling.

“No matter how bad or how hopeless you think things are, Gamblers Anonymous can help if you have that desire.

“Members are there to help each other. Come and listen to other members talk about how they have succeeded in stopping, and how their lives have changed.”