UK bank NatWest is teaming up with GamCare to offer gambling addicts counselling in some of its high street branches. Specialist counsellors will be available at a limited number of branches and it’s hoped the initiative will help combat the problem of gambling addiction.
The first of its kind, the pilot scheme will initially run in a limited number of branches, although if successful the programme will be rolled out nationwide.
Help for problem gamblers
Working in partnership with GamCare, NatWest will soon provide a gambling counselling service in 13 of its branches in London and the South East of England, with the plan being to eventually extend the service to many more of the bank’s 700 branches across the country, depending on how well it does.
Phil Sheehy, Head of Lending at NatWest, said “some customers might be uncomfortable going to an addiction centre” and that a branch would provide “an accessible and neutral environment” for problem gamblers.
“We want to look at what we can do to help people who may be struggling with a gambling addiction, which can have a significant effect financially”, he continued.
Anyone who believes they might have a gambling problem or might be at risk of developing problems with gambling can make an appointment at one of the participating branches to see a specially trained GamCare counsellor, even if they aren’t a customer with the bank.
“The relationship between problem gambling and financial problems is well established, although not enough is known about it”, said Mike Kenward, development director at GamCare.
“Banks are in a phenomenal position to support people affected by problem gambling. What people need when they’re trying to make a big change in their life is the tools to help them when their motivation is at its lowest. It gives an additional layer of protection”, he added.
As well as in-branch counsellors, GamCare will also train NatWest staff to help them identify and support problem gamblers.
Responsibility of banks
Research by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) found that around 340,000 adults in the UK are classed as problem gamblers, 0.7% of the adult population, and the UK government has made it clear that high street banks, as well as companies with a direct connection to gambling, are expected to take responsibility in protecting customers.
Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said, “I will closely monitor NatWest’s progress and I urge others in the banking sector to follow suit for the good of their customers”.
NatWest will allow customers to use its banking app to block themselves from making deposits to online casinos and other gambling sites, a measure several other banks have also introduced. This self-exclusion is designed to offer another layer of protection for people who suffer from gambling addiction.
The high street bank is also considering banning gambling transactions made by credit card, a proposal already being considered by the UKGC.