GAMBLING addiction costs Swindon public services like the NHS and council up to £3m a year, new estimates have found.

Analysis by the borough council has put the cost at between £2.1m and £3m, with around a third of the cost borne by the hospital. A new research paper produced by the council public health team says the costs equate to £1,623 per gambling addict.

The Swindon secretary of Gamblers Anonymous called on those who suspect they have a betting problem to seek help. He said compulsive gambling should be treated as a form of illness and was suspected of being a factor in the suicide of one former member of the group.

Council statisticians estimate there are up to 1,900 people in Swindon with a gambling problem. But the number affected by their behaviour could be as many as 18,800, including partners and children.

Hospital figures show five people have been admitted onto the wards in the past five years as a direct result of gambling addiction. But the true number could be much higher. The borough said in its paper: “Gambling would often not be directly related to care received in the hospital and may not be seen as relevant for patient notes.”

The secretary of Swindon’s Gamblers Anonymous group, who uses the name John. said some of his group’s members suffered from anxiety and others had attempted to take their own lives.

And the impact on those around them could be wide-ranging. “When you drop a stone in water, the ripples are felt far apart. Compulsive gambling incorporates stuff like lying, cheating, stealing money, having no family time.

“Families can split up. Your wife sometimes thinks you’re going with somebody else because you’re acting so secretive.”

Bookmakers and other gambling shops are already required to carry information about gambling addiction support services.

But following a decision by Swindon Borough Council’s licensing committee last year, the shops will also have to show posters advertising Gamblers’ Anonymous, an organisation not funded by the industry. The literature is expected to be posted in shops early this year.

Danielle Edwards, a director of Charlie Edwards Leisure, said her two Swindon shops were already committed to tackling problem gambling. “It’s really important to us as a business. We think of ourselves as an entertainments firm,” she said.

“We don’t want to see someone losing money or struggling. We look after people if they seem to have a problem.” In common with bookmakers’, the company offers people the option to voluntarily ban themselves from their shops. Details of people who have banned themselves can be shared with other entertainment and betting shops across Swindon.

Both John and Ms Edwards said they shared concerns about online betting applications. “They can do it in the house,” said John. “They will go underground.”

In their review, the council warned of the dangers to children from online gambling. 1 in 10 children claim to have gambled online, a Gambling Association poll found. For help with a gambling problem contact Swindon Gamblers Anonymous on 07519139710 or visit

Consider gambling when developing new local plan - recommendation

Council statisticians recommended planning officers consider the affects of gambling as they draw up a new Local Plan for Swindon.

In the joint strategic needs document, the borough’s public health team said it should be acknowledged Swindon has a higher rate of gambling shops in the town centre compared to England more widely.

Around 5 per cent of town centre units are taken up by licensed betting shops in Swindon, compared to 3.8 per cent of town centre units nationally. There are 59 licenses for betting shops in Swindon’s more deprived areas, compared to 44 in the least deprived.

The statisticians wrote: “The link between problem gambling and vulnerable groups (including those with mental health conditions, children and young people and people living in deprived areas) may support some restriction of new gambling premises.”

The Local Plan sets out where new developments could be placed around Swindon. A draft plan is expected to be published this year.

It was also recommended the council work with primary schools to educate children and young people about the dangers of gambling addiction and the links between computer gaming and betting.