The NHS is to open its first gambling clinic for children and young people.
The National Problem Gambling Clinic will aim to offer support to addicts aged 13 to 25.
It is part of an expansion of support for those with an addiction announced in an NHS long-term plan which will see 14 clinics open around England.
The Gambling Commission, which regulates the industry, said it was essential people had easy access to support and treatment.
The parents of one young man who took his own life after battling with a gambling addiction also welcomed the announcement.
Jack Ritchie, from Sheffield, started gambling with his dinner money at the local bookies when he was 17. Seven years later, he took his own life.
His parents Liz and Charlie, who founded the charity Gambling with Lives, say the seriousness of Jack’s situation was not recognised.
They said their son saw his gambling habit as “a bit of fun” at the beginning. But it soon got out of control.
“But in the end he thought it controlled him.”
Gambling ‘doesn’t discriminate’
Liz Ritchie welcomed the news of the clinic for young people. “Of course it’s wonderful. And if Jack had had a referral there, then it probably would have saved him.
“But the links to primary care are vital. Jack referred himself to his GP, but he didn’t know to refer him. So we need proper training for all our GPs.”
Henrietta Bowden-Jones, founder and director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, said: “Gambling disorder is a destructive condition which doesn’t discriminate. It wrecks lives, pulls families into debt and can leave people feeling suicidal.”
The new clinic for young people will open this year in London as part of an expansion of NHS services across England.
Fourteen other clinics for adult gambling addicts are set to open – the first in Leeds this summer, followed by others in Manchester and Sunderland.
Until now, specialist face-to-face help has only been available in London at a clinic focused on addicts aged 16 and over.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I have seen first-hand the devastating impact gambling addiction can have on people’s lives and I am determined to do everything I can to help anyone affected get the help and support they need.
“We know that too many young people face their lives being blighted by problem gambling – so these new clinics will also look at what more can be done to help them.”
Mike Kenwood, director of development at GamCare – a charity providing support and advice to people affected by problem gambling, told BBC Radio 5 Live more education on the issue “is badly needed” in schools.
“In school you would have been more likely to receive education and awareness sessions around things like drugs and alcohol, safe sex, healthy eating in PSHE [Personal, Social, Health and Economic education] lessons,” he said.
“There is a broader agenda which address all those things, but gambling is missing from it.”