The first NHS clinic to treat problem gamblers has opened for a 12-month trial in London.
The National Problem Gambling Clinic in Soho, west London, is a multidisciplinary clinic with a range of staff including psychiatrists, psychologists and family therapists onhand to help gamblers.
Patients will be treated with motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioural therapy alongside help with debt management.
The clinic's lead consultant psychiatrist, Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, said: "We have developed a unique treatment package to address specific difficulties that are common to problem gamblers.
"Due to the nature of their addiction, gamblers' finances are often in bad shape so an important part of treatment is to tackle debt management and employment issues."
The Gambling Commission says 250,000 people have been classed as problem gamblers, and that the problem is more prevalent among young men.
The British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007 showed that the most popular type of gambling activity in Britain last year was the National Lottery Draw, with 57% of people taking part.
Scratch cards were the second most popular, with 20% of people using them, followed by 17% who bet on horse races and 14% who played slot machines.
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"The saddest thing is that so few people actually use the centres. Huge waste occurs. Even less people stay to fully complete treatments! We need gambling machine consumer licences to educate people BEFORE they start using gambling machines, about the dangers of hypnosis, subliminal messaging and manipulation of thought processes, to warn that these machines exacerbate and encourage addiction. We need mandatory smart cards to protect gambling machine consumers, to get a receipt and spending record that can warn them and their hapless families before everything dear to the family is sent down the drain – with government encouragement. The cards could be used by the consumer to set and stick to predetermined limits. A damned disgrace all around that an industry like gambling is seen as a 'social benefit' when it destroys better businesses that employ more people. A casino needs approx an extra million dollars turnover to employ ONE more staff member ... other businesses would employ many more staff with that additional turnover! Give proper consumer protections and treatment centres might be less required" – Libby Mitchell, Yallourn, Australia