drugs and alcohol
4th November 2015

The True Cost Of Gambling Addiction In The Workplace

Addiction in any form can be a serious issue, however addiction in the workplace can be a serious issue not just for staff, but also for employers.

Gambling in all its various forms has not generally been considered as a problem in the workplace and has only emerged as a significant issue in relatively recent times. Many managers may find it difficult to assess instances of addiction in the workplace– and perhaps even quite hard to recognise.

The facts are these: addictions of all sorts are on the increase throughout society, whether it’s alcohol, drugs or gambling, addiction can be disruptive for business.

With the rapid advances in mobile online technology – laptop computers, tablets and smart-phones – it has never been easier to access highly addictive online betting and casino games.

Business owners need to be aware of this issue and the potential damage that ‘problem gambling’ and addiction in the workplace can cause, both to their employees and their whole organisation.

Above all, they also need to recognise that, for employees who deal with finances, the consequences of problem gambling for the whole business could be catastrophic.

Consider the recent report of a man who lost £25,000 on high-stakes betting machines, who, in calling for them to be banned, claimed that these machines were as addictive as drugs.

Although the Association of British Bookmakers has stated that most people bet about £7.55 and play for about 20 minutes on these machines, and that there are measures on them to stop people getting into difficulties, it is clear that a real problem exists.

‘Problem gambling’ or gambling addiction can lead to ‘warning signs’ which responsible employers – or HR managers – can spot. These include:

  • employees arriving late for work
  • mysterious disappearances
  • taking long lunch breaks
  • leaving early
  • unexplained sick leave
  • Internet and telephone misuse

So, what can employers do to tackle the issue of addiction in the workplace?

There are various measures that employers can take.

They could, for example:

  • Raise awareness of issues with addiction in the workplace via general e-mails to all staff and posters on general notice boards
  • Supply leaflets promoting support agencies, that can supply advice and confidential counselling

For gambling addiction in the workplace, employers can also:

  • Check the monthly telephone bills of employees – those with a gambling problem are likely to have set up a telephone account with one or more bookmakers, and are also more likely to have online gambling accounts if they have Internet access at work
  • Check the Internet search histories and ‘bookmarks’ of employees – if there is an issue with addiction in then workplace then staff are more likely to be gambling on the Internet regularly, then gambling sites will almost certainly be bookmarked.

Employers should also develop a clear and comprehensive ‘Gambling at work’ policy to protect them for gambling addiction in the workplace.

Many employers have policies for behaviours such as smoking or drinking alcohol, so they should also introduce their own policies on gambling to help prevent gambling addiction in the workplace, drawn up in liaison with local gambling agencies. It would be wise to incorporate a risk assessment policy in relation to gambling at the same time.

Finally, employers should give support to employees who are identified as ‘problem gamblers’.

Staff in such difficulties should be offered counselling services and other forms of support. ‘Problem gambling’ can lead to issues with gambling addiction and may need to be treated sympathetically in the same way as other addictions, such as alcoholism.

Employers and employee support services must also be educated about the potential problems of gambling addiction, which, if unchecked, could bring down a business – and has actually done so!

Nick Leeson, the so-called ‘rogue trader’, whose unauthorised stock market activity eventually brought down Barings, Britain’s oldest-established investment bank.

The bank collapsed in 1995 after suffering losses of £827 million, resulting from poor investments conducted by him while he was working at its office in Singapore. Leeson had become intoxicated with the risks and rewards of this highly-speculative form of trading.

And in February this year, a bank manager was jailed after stealing £176,000 from his employers to fund his gambling addiction.

Joshua Bridgeman took the money while working at the Ely, Cambridgeshire, branch of Barclays Bank, after becoming addicted to online casino gambling and fixed odds betting terminals.


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