25 Mar 2024

Research into gambling harm and contribution to the impact of homelessness

At Simon Community Scotland we have been researching gambling harm within our services for the past 14 months and working with UK organisations to share learning on how to best support those affected. Last year, we were funded by Gamble Aware to:

  • Analyse the scope and prevalence of gambling harm within our services
  • Raise awareness and reduce stigma of gambling harm with organisations and people we support directly
  • Start to create tailored pathways of support for women
  • Create free resources for support staff working with people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness or insecure housing.

One in five people who experience homelessness also experience gambling harm.

The relationship between gambling and homelessness might seem obvious, however, very little work has been done to look at this in Scotland. Gambling is rarely mentioned when discussing homelessness, even though it can contribute to relationship and family breakdowns, rent and bill arrears, domestic abuse, debt and deteriorating mental health – all of which can lead to someone being asked to leave their accommodation.

Of the people we surveyed:

  • Over 50 per cent had gambled in the last 12 months
  • Over 60 per cent had been negatively affected by someone else's gambling
  • 20 per cent had prioritised gambling over essentials such as food, bills or rent.

We partnered with Fast Forward to create free resources for support staff working with people in housing need in Scotland. The Homelessness and Gambling Harm e-learning provides practical resources to engage people in conversation about gambling, create support plans for those experiencing gambling harm, and provide information on how the gambling industry operates. It can be completed in separate sittings and provides a comprehensive overview of the contribution that gambling harm can have to homelessness.

My main takeaway from last year is hearing what someone said regarding their gambling:

“At one point 90 per cent of my money was going on gambling. Nothing good comes of it. I lost everything. And no one knew, because no one asked.”

For me, the most important thing that could come out of these resources, is that people start proactively asking about gambling, understand what gambling harm is, and how to have an engaged conversation with someone they are supporting about the industry and the potential harms associated with gambling.

Gambling can prolong someone's experience and exit out of homelessness. It is silent, it can take place online, or in person, and it can be truly debilitating.

These resources equip organisations with the tools they need to become knowledgeable about the links between gambling harm and homelessness so that people have the confidence to ask the introductory question:

“Is your gambling, or that of someone else, causing you any worries?”

What have you got to lose by asking?

If someone you’re supporting is looking for help or a chat with someone about gambling they can pop into one of our Gambling Harm Drop In Clinics facilitated by The RCA Trust. You don’t need an appointment - pop in for a chat, a biscuit or to organise treatment for yourself or someone else who is experiencing or affected by gambling harm. The team are lovely, welcoming and non-judgemental. You can find them in:

Glasgow, Access Hub (357 Argyle Street, Glasgow, G2 8LR)
First Tuesday of every month 11:00-13:00

Edinburgh Hub (22 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8AF) 11:00-13:00
Streetreads (25 Nicholson Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9BX) 14:00-16:00
Second Wednesday of every month

We will also be opening Scotland’s first and only space dedicated to women who are affected by or experiencing gambling harm in our Connect Hub in the Spring of 2024.

Written by Lauren Heany

Lauren is the policy and practice lead for gambling harm at Simon Community Scotland. If you want to talk further about Gambling Harm and Homelessness, please contact Lauren here.