UK seaside town named worst for gambling with bookies hotspot just 14 miles away

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The seaside town of Hartlepool has been unveiled as the worst in the country for gambling. A new study conducted by online casino revealed that the town came out top in the whole of the UK for online searches relating to betting.

Researchers say the fact it’s a seaside resort, in County Durham in the North East of England, could have helped boost the dangerous addiction due to the increased number of betting shops and amusements.

A former gambler, who claims to have lost “millions” from betting online, acknowledged the rising habit in Hartlepool, but says it is a “national issue” that’s being neglected. The individual, who wants to remain anonymous, now dedicates his time to helping people in the town. 

The study, conducted by online casino site Playcasino.com, analysed Google Keyword Planner data on nationwide search volumes for words associated with gambling over the past 12 months per 100k searches.

These terms such as ‘gambling’, ‘gambling tips’ and ‘online gambling’ were combined with each location in the UK and weighted against the population to determine which city or town is most interested in gambling. 

The study said Hartlepool takes the top spot as the UK’s top “gambling capital” with a total of 8,647 monthly searches per 100,000.

In 2021 researchers from the University of Bristol found more than a fifth (21 percent) of gambling premises are located in the most deprived areas, compared with just 2 percent in the least deprived areas.

The study, supported by Standard Life Foundation, found parts Middlesbrough – Hartlepool’s neighbouring town – had the highest number of betting shops per capita, with on average one betting shop per 3-4,000 residents.

The research found 34 percent of amusement arcades, 30 percent of bingo venues and 29 percent of adult gaming centres were located in the most deprived communities – with Hartlepool being one of the most struggling towns in the UK.

Volunteer at Gamblers Anonymous, who goes by the name Lee, said: “We have volunteers that do a 24 hour shift each day – for example I had a call last night at 11pm. A gentleman in dire straits who had gambled all his wages away.

“There is a regular meeting in Hartlepool and it has a good consistent turn out – but no more than anywhere else in the region.”

Lee, from Darlington, is still getting back on track after his life was blown apart by a severe gambling addiction. The 41-year-old was a problem gambler for 23 years and claims he stole £600,000 from his employer and spent “millions” betting on horse racing and football online before handing himself into the police in 2010. He said: “I lost my fiancee, car, family and house.”

But now he dedicates all of his spare time to helping others – including in Hartlepool – heal their addiction.

He said: “It’s online gambling and bookmakers – the majority of gambling is now online. It’s common everywhere and amongst different age groups from 18 to 80, stealing to fund their gambling and ending up in prison, stealing from family, borrowing from loan sharks.

“And it doesn’t matter how much money you have got – if you are gambling more than you can afford then you have a problem. I don’t have the figures but it’s a national problem. It’s a pandemic and the government doesn’t focus on it.”

He says attending meetings with Gamblers Anonymous has been his ultimate saviour and he’s been free of the addiction for 14 months.

Lee added: “The meetings are therapeutic and they take away the loneliness and the secrecy.”

The study into top betting cities and towns comes as gambling companies are set to be hit with a new Government levy under plans that consider diverting some of the proceeds to the NHS. 

The new gambling white paper is expected to include proposals for a compulsory contribution to treatment programmes for gambling addicts, standardising the payment to ensure that no firms can exploit potential loopholes in their obligations by paying insignificant sums.

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