PROBLEM gambling in East Lancashire is set to be targeted with the launch of a new scheme.

Data from the Gambling Commission shows there are around 60,000 problem gamblers in the North West and 200,000 at risk of addiction.

An addiction to gambling can harm people’s health and relationships, leave them in serious debt and possibly even lead to suicide.

It has prompted the county’s main mental health organisation Lancashire Care Foundation Trust to partner up with Liverpool-based counselling charity Beacon Counselling Trust.

The scheme would see support provided to people who are addicted to or harmed by gambling.

Sue Moore, director of strategic development at Lancashire Care, said: “Problem gambling has been called the hidden addiction, this is because it hasn’t been given the same prominence unlike other addictions such as alcohol or drug addiction.

“The physical effects are very difficult to see but the impact on individuals and their families can be life changing.

“This is a massive societal issue that affects people across all age groups.

“Lancashire Care is pioneering this in Lancashire with the Beacon Counselling Trust.”

Beacon Counselling Trust (BCT) is the main provider of GamCare treatment for those affected by problem gambling in the North West.

To begin with, practitioners in the trust’s Mindsmatter service and young people’s services have been upskilled by BCT staff to identify, and signpost people to the GamCare Treatment Network or to be supported as part of the GamCare Youth Outreach Programme.

Ms Moore added: “While the vast majority gamble with no significant negative consequences, a minority gamble to an extent which can seriously damage or disrupt their family, personal and working lives.

“Being a problem gambler also has major influences on mental health and can make people anxious and depressed or exacerbate existing mental health problems.”

According to the Health Survey for England, Scotland and Wales in 2016, the most popular forms of gambling were buying National Lottery tickets, buying scratch cards, participation in other lotteries and betting on horseracing (not online).

Among men, the next most popular forms of gambling were online betting with a bookmaker and betting on sports events.

For women, the next most popular form of gambling was bingo (not online).