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An NHS clinic in Leeds has warned that gamblers could struggle during the coronavirus crisis as isolation could push them to addiction and debt.

The clinic expects a rise in problem gambling rates during the pandemic as people have more time on their hands, coupled with financial and job insecurity. Following the cancellation and postponement of all major sports events, it is feared gamblers are turning to addictive online casinos.

“There are a range of risk factors in place at the moment: social isolation, boredom, stress, financial and job insecurity and the opportunity to gamble online. While a lot of sports betting has stopped, we are expecting a rise in referrals further down the line. It takes time for gambling harm to spread across someone’s life and for them to realise they have a problem. We are concerned that the next wave of gambling addiction will happen under these circumstances and that customers are not being adequately protected,” Clinical lead Matthew Gaskell said.

Chris Murphy, from Leeds, said his gambling addiction got to the stage where he tried to take his own life.

Mr Murphy, who has not placed a bet for about 16 months, said: “Isolation is a big risk factor. As with many addictions, gambling can be an isolated act; particularly online gambling. You can effectively be sat in a casino in your own house. Certainly the insecurities people are feeling now, financially and emotionally, can be played on. I would just urge anyone thinking of solving these insecurities by gambling to take a step back…”

The NHS Northern Gambling Service is offering video support amid the crisis.