Public health chiefs have launched a new interactive mapping tool to help assess the risk of problem gambling in Wolverhampton.

The Local Area Risk Assessment Tool is designed to ensure gambling operators have robust policies, procedures and control measures in place to address the issues associated with problem gambling.

It's thought that around 1,600 people in Wolverhampton are 'problem gamblers' - and gamble to such an extent that it seriously damages or disrupts their family, personal and working lives. It commonly leads to financial problems, mental and physical health issues, job loss, absenteeism and criminality.

Men are 5 times more likely to be problem gamblers, and young people who start to gamble are more likely to go on to become problem gamblers. Gambling is also more common among those with lower incomes and within certain ethnicities.

The interactive Local Area Risk Assessment Tool enables data sets to be laid over maps of the local area, showing characteristics, surroundings and behaviours which may heighten the risk of people being impacted by problem gambling. The tool can also be used for other kinds of licensing the council is responsible for, such as alcohol licensing.

Councillor Hazel Malcolm, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: "We take the issue of problem gambling very seriously and are very aware of the serious risks it poses to our communities.

"Operators need to be putting forward robust plans to mitigate these risks, and this new assessment tool will help them do this by enabling them to view various pieces of information about the area in which they wish to operate in.

"For instance, if they wish to operate near a school we would expect to see more stringent policies in place to protect children and young people from harm and exploitation, while they will also be able to assess whether a particular area already has a high number of gambling establishments, in which case their application is less likely to be successful."

Councillor Alan Bolshaw, chair of the City of Wolverhampton Council's Licensing Committee, said: "We take a wide range of factors into account when considering licence applications, including potential risks.

"The Gambling Commission recently introduced new provisions in its social responsibility code requiring operators to assess local risks, and it is important that they make use of the assessment tool in order to mitigate these risks as far as possible."

The Local Area Risk Assessment Tool can be found at Gambling premises licence.

The council's Public Health and Licensing teams have been working together to ensure the health harms from problem gambling are understood and acted upon, and this is reflected in the council's Statement of Gambling Policy.

Recently revised, it sets out how, as a licensing authority, the council will work to prevent gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime; ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way; and protect children and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

There is a wide range of support available for people who have a gambling problem. Working in partnership with the city's substance misuse support provider Recovery Near You, Aquarius offers individual and group support. People can seek support by calling 0300 456 4293 or 0121 450 9650.

GamCare offers free information, support and counselling. For more information, please visit GamCare or call the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133. 

Gamblers Anonymous UK runs local support groups that use the same 12 step approach to recovery from addiction as Alcoholics Anonymous. For details, visit Gamblers Anonymous. The Gordon Moody Association offers residential courses in the West Midlands for problem gamblers - email, visit Gordon Moody Association or call 01384 241292 to find out more.

People with complex problems related to gambling can refer themselves to the specialist NHS National Problem Gambling Clinic if they meet the criteria for the service. For details, please visit the National Problem Gambling Clinic.

For more help and support, please visit the NHS webpages about gambling addition at Help for problem gambling.