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A new report by Public Health England (PHE), an agency within the UK government Department of Health, has revealed that harms associated with gambling cost society an estimated total of at least £1.27 billion a year.

The agency carried out a study that looked into the significance of gambling as a public health issue. It sought to identify the prevalence of gambling harm, as well as its effects on others and the social and economic burdens it causes.

PHE said it estimated the cost at between £841m and £2.12bn, with the most likely estimate being £1.27bn. It said that just over half of that (£647.2m) represented a direct cost for the UK government, of which £342.2m was for mental and physical health costs. The agency put a cost of £162.5m on criminal activity stemming from gambling, it found that 3799 people were in prison for gambling-related offences, and £79.5m for employment and education harms.

The cost to the government of financial harms was estimated at £62.8m, with 21,438 homeless applications in England related to problem gambling. The agency also estimated £619.2m in intangible costs to society.

The study found that people in the gambling industry, referred to as “commercial stakeholders,” tended to say that the causes of gambling harm were complex and possibly related to comorbidities or a tendency towards addiction. However, non-commercial stakeholders tended to say that gambling products or environments were responsible.

Commercial stakeholders tended to believe the best solutions required individual intervention and treatment, but non-commercial stakeholders were more likely to argue that systemic changes were needed.

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