New Lancashire gambling addiction clinic set to open as record number of people call betting helplines

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A new gambling addiction clinic, originally slated to be located in Blackpool, is set to open in Preston later this year in order to alleviate the strain on the North-West’s only current NHS clinic in Salford.

With new figures from the GamCare showing a 24% increase in calls and internet chats made to the National Gambling Helpline across 2023, meaning that the tally of 52,370 set a new yearly record for the service, the Preston clinic will be one of seven due to open across the UK in 2024.

As the number of people reaching out for help with gambling addiction across the UK soars, experts expect that many of those in need of assistance will be able to be referred to local charities and trusts better set up to personally support those with low or medium tier gambling harm.

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One of the local trusts for the north-west is the Beacon Counselling Trust, who offer a host of services to those struggling with addiction themselves, or who are supporting someone going through gambling addiction. The trust is part of the National Gambling Support Network

Lauren Campbell, the BCT’s treatment manager, emphasised how important the constant contact was with people who are at risk.

She said: “It’s paramount. Safeguarding for these service users is priority; if we’ve got service users that we are stepping up into NHS clinics, they are our most vulnerable groups, we need to make sure that they are safe and that they've got support.

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“It can be a challenge for us but their safeguarding is the most important thing to us.”

The number of people seen by NHS clinics for severe gambling difficulties was 1,400 between April 2022 and March 2023.

Significantly, this was an increase of more than a third on the year before with waiting times for NHS services putting a slight strain on the resources.

The new clinics should allow 3,000 patients to be seen each year, and Preston’s new centre will become one of three in the North-West, joining the already established Salford clinic, and another planned service in Liverpool.

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Gambling has been a hot-topic in Lancashire lately, with Scott Benton, the Conservative MP for Blackpool South, having been stripped of the whip by the Tory Party and handed a recommended 35-day suspension from Parliament for breaching lobbying rules. Mr Benton has said he will be appealing to the Independent Expert Panel.

Mr Benton was chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Betting and Gaming when he was approached by undercover reporters posing as representatives from fictitious betting firm Tahr Partners in March. The Standards Committee said Mr Benton suggested MPs could lobby ministers, set up meetings with Government advisers, table parliamentary questions and provide access to confidential documents, and that Mr Benton “made statements that he would be willing to breach and/or circumvent the House’s rules for the company in return for payment”.

With the government now consulting on a gambling white-paper (a set of proposals for future legislation), the Beacon Trust is hoping that measures preventing people from falling into gambling harm will be at the heart of it.

Nicola Jaques is the Families Link Worker for the Beacon Counselling Trust, and she says that the new clinics will allow for continued collaboration across all organisations that deal with gambling harm. “The clinics are there for when you have someone with an actual gambling disorder," she said.

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“Gambling addiction is called the invisible addiction," she said. "You can tell if someone is under the influence of drink, and you can tell if somebody is having substance issues because of the physical presentations over time, but you can’t overdose on gambling.

“Advertising was left out of the white paper, so we would say that it definitely needs to be addressed, and not just for prevention, but also for those that have experienced gambling harms because, for those trying to resume normal lives, you can’t escape it," she added. "It’s everywhere.

“Regardless of the legislation that comes in, our strategy is the work that can be done now. Particularly around screening and identifying people who are at risk… not at the crisis point where we as a service pick up those phone calls.”

Preston’s clinic will open up later this year, with details on location and opening dates yet to be announced. But, regardless of when, it will allow local people struggling with gambling harm to access the services that they need at all levels of severity.

If you need support, call Beacon Counselling Trust at 0151 226 0696 or visit

Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust has been approached for comment.

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