Skip to content

Putting gambling harms on the HR agenda – in conversation with Betknowmore UK. 

Gambling impacts all aspects of a person’s life – and this includes their career. Betknowmore are a charity dedicated to raising awareness and providing support for individuals impacted by gambling harms, including education and training in the workplace.

We sat down with them to chat about what employers are missing when it comes to spotting the warning signs – and the areas where support needs to be improved.

Spotting the warning signs in the workplace

28% of working adults who gamble in the UK would prefer to keep the extent of their gambling hidden from their colleagues. Mark Pickering, Commercial Affairs Manager at Betknowmore, shared his experience of how gambling can hide in plain sight:

“I was a financial adviser in a FTSE 100 company, and I don’t mind saying, a very successful one. I remember on one occasion sitting in my office having a meeting with a sales manager. During the meeting, I put a bet on from which I lost £20,000 and he didn’t even know. That’s the ability we have, to lie to everyone around us. People thought I was successful, but behind the scenes my life was in tatters.”

So what are the warning signs that someone might be struggling? Subtle things like moving a desk so others can’t see what’s on your screen, visiting the toilet frequently or disappearing at lunchtimes could all be signs. But it’s not just the obvious signs of ‘poor’ performance that could indicate a problem.

“Presenteeism is just as much of a red flag as absenteeism.”

Oliver Christie, Administrator for Peer Aid, shared: “I was working all the hours possible in order to generate gambling money. I was one of the top hitters on my team because I was so determined to get the sales and the money to gamble with. My employers perhaps just thought I was motivated but looking back it seems obvious I had something going on.”

Katy Wilson, UK Ops and Business Development Lead, added: “Presenteeism is just as much of a red flag as absenteeism, but it’s not considered as much.”

What policies can employers put in place to support those struggling with gambling?

Mark believes that raising awareness early is key. “Once you get to the point of no return, unless you get ‘caught’ there’s no chance of getting through to you. I wouldn’t have stopped for anything. It has to be about building that awareness and understanding through policies and procedures that make people confident in coming forward.

Studies find that 48% of adults have gambled in the last week alone. Whilst not everyone starts out with a serious issue, raising awareness early can help prevent them from reaching crisis. Michelle Hill, a Peer Aid co-ordinator for Betknowmore told us that, in her previous HR role, whilst employers had policies around support for drug or alcohol addiction, there was “nothing” for gambling. “As an HR professional I had no clue what avenues there were to support people who were struggling. Having those things in place in a non-judgmental way is key. A fear of the reaction of others is what stops people reaching out.”

Ollie added: “I never even thought to go through work avenues for support because I thought I would have lost my job. I was petrified that work would find out, but employers can actually craft themselves a better employee if they openly discuss these things. A lack of understanding is the problem.”

“If you’re considering wellbeing in your organisation, you should have gambling on your agenda.”

When it comes to support for gambling harms, it’s all about putting the policies and procedures in place that give everyone the necessary education and knowledge. Betknowmore would like to see “every workplace” have a policy on gambling. Katy told us: “Everyone talks about how important wellbeing is – well gambling impacts every aspect of someone’s wellbeing. If you’re considering wellbeing in your organisation, you should have gambling on your agenda.”

Support from colleagues can also make a huge difference

So preventative support policies help at an institutional level, but what can colleagues do on a day-to-day basis? Katy suggests that “perseverance and patience” are crucial. “Sometimes you can start a conversation with someone who is not immediately receptive, it’s common to deny they need any form of support. Don’t expect to get immediate results and expect you’ll change someone’s life immediately, but bring it up again if you can.”

“Build up a culture of trust.”

Michelle added: “People are also frightened that if they do talk, suddenly everyone in their workplace will know what’s going on. Having an open community in the workplace and building the trust that what they’re sharing is confidential is huge.”

Mark summarised: “The organisations need to build up a culture of trust.”


The Power of Peer Support: Fostering Wellbeing, Community, and Performance in the Workplace

Adapting People Management Practices for a new workforce