A charity is offering free and confidential gambling counselling to members of the Armed Forces as research suggests personnel and veterans are up to ten times more likely to gamble than the civilian population.
The addiction recovery agency Ara is also offering to help the family members affected by the gambling of a loved one in the armed forces.
Martin Siddorn, the Development Lead for Ara, says that veterans are eight times more likely than the civilian population to have gambling problems and this is backed up by other research that shows the figure could be up to ten times higher.
Swansea University's 'UK Armed Forces Veterans’ Health and Gambling Study' found that "veterans were more than ten times more likely than non-veterans to experience gambling harms".
Gambling is described by Ara as the carbon monoxide of addictions, in that you cannot see or smell it in the way you perhaps could with other addictions such as alcohol or drugs.
The charity finds that people who ask them for help with a gambling addiction are often at the lowest point in their lives and facing a crisis such as bankruptcy, relationship breakdown or criminal justice proceedings, among other issues.
Ara offers free and confidential treatment to those affected by harmful gambling and one-to-one counselling. Its pledge to the Armed Forces Covenant means Ara develops bespoke pathways for the military community.
Martin defines harmful gambling as being "when a person has the urge to continuously gamble, despite negative and harmful consequences, or the desire to stop".
Speaking to Ben Coley, a broadcaster for BFBS the Forces Station, Martin said that, quite often, the charity helps men and women who feel the need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to get the thrill they are looking for.
This, however, can negatively affect their lives and those they love, as Martin said: "We see people who often are so taken up with their gambling that they think about nothing else really.
"They're just totally preoccupied with their gambling, so they don't think about their relationships, they don't think about their jobs and those things start to fall apart."
Ara signed the Armed Forces Covenant in November 2021 and is committed to providing free, confidential and non-judgmental gambling help across Wales and the South West of England.
According to a report published by the Gambling Commission in July 2021, about 22.1 million adults gambled in 2020 of which about 245,000 adults in England are problem gamblers.
Ara states that on average, there are seven other people who are affected negatively by the gambling of someone they know. This leaves a large number of adults and children who might need help.
Martin said that many of the young men Ara helps, who have a disposable income and a love of competitive sports, are particularly at risk of being vulnerable to gambling and its harmful effects, adding: "I've been out and about recently talking to a range of military groups and been struck by the young male group who are being quite aggressively marketed to on social media and some of them getting involved in things like online trading and cryptocurrency, which carry all the hallmarks of gambling."
If you or someone you know needs help with their gambling addiction you find support from Ara here www.recovery4all.co.uk
Alternatively, you can call Ara on 0330 1340 286.
Cover image: An photograph of a worried soldier (Picture: Crown Copyright).