A new project aimed at tackling the ‘hidden addiction’ of problem gambling among young people has been launched by the trade body for bookmakers in Scotland.

The Association of British Bookmakers in Scotland (ABB Scotland) will fund the six month project, working in partnership with Paisley based charity RCA Trust to deliver education and counselling support for 2,500 young people across the West of Scotland.

Schools in Clydebank, Glasgow, Renfrewshire and Rutherglen will be invited to take part in the project.

Problem gambling among young people has been described by academics and charities as a hidden addiction, with recent studies suggesting that 2% of 12-15 year olds in England and Wales are considered ‘problem’ or ‘at risk’ gamblers. The 2015 Scottish Health Survey found that 0.8% of 16-24 year olds are problem gamblers, compared to an overall rate of 0.7% across all age groups.

The outreach project is the latest in a series of responsible gambling measures introduced by the ABB, including a nationwide multi-operator self exclusion scheme – initially piloted in Glasgow – that allows gamblers to exclude themselves from all betting shops in their area, a Scotland wide Gamble Aware campaign, and confidential drop in sessions for customers in the West of Scotland concerned about their gambling spend.

ABB Scotland spokesman Donald Morrison said: “As with adults, the vast majority of young people gamble for fun and only bet what they can afford. However, the number of problem or at risk young gamblers is a matter of concern, particularly as evidence shows that young people who gamble are more likely to become problem gamblers as adults. It is important therefore that problems are identified at an early age and the necessary support is offered.

“Betting shops are out of bounds for young people under 18. Nevertheless, we believe it is right that we take the lead in promoting responsible gambling and highlighting the dangers associated with problem gambling. We are particularly pleased to be partnering with RCA Trust, an experienced and respected charity with a proven track record in providing educational, counselling and addiction support for young people.”

Andrew Todd, Manager of RCA Trust, said “We are happy to be partnering with the ABB to deliver education and information on safe and responsible gambling. This will allow young people and their parents to have access to specialist care pathways if difficulties arise.

West of Scotland MSPs Neil Bibby and Maurice Golden are backing the initiative.

Mr Bibby said: “While the vast majority of people who gamble do so responsibly, we cannot ignore the problem of gambling addiction in any age group. The industry has a responsibility to communities like Paisley where it operates and so it is reassuring to see bookmakers taking steps to raise awareness about problem gambling in schools and making sure that more counselling and support is available for young people in Paisley with experience of this addiction.”

Maurice Golden added: ““I am pleased to support ABB Scotland’s new outreach in the West of Scotland. In some cases, gambling can become a serious problem, that’s why it should be welcomed that the industry is playing its part in promoting sensible and responsible gambling, particularly amongst young people.”

For confidential help and advice on problem gambling, call GamCare on 0808 802 0133 or RCA Trust on0141 887 0880.

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