A problem gambler can take their addiction with them wherever they go. But did you know that some companies can make the problem worse? Find out just how damaging gambling can be to a business.
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Gambling addiction is a very serious problem that effects hundreds of thousands of people in the UK. In fact, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), the nation’s gambling regulatory body, revealed in a 2017 report that approximately 430,000 adults suffer from a serious gambling problem in the United Kingdom and that almost 2 million UK residence are considered at-risk gamblers.
Taking these troubling findings into consideration, it isn’t hard to believe that gambling addiction can and does bleed over into the workplace. Pathological gambling addicts have no control over their actions and will feed their addiction anywhere and in spite of the consequences.
However, gambling at work extends beyond employees betting on casino games, card games and sports on their breaks or while they’re working. Office gambling also includes office pools and many people argue that this gambling is unethical and has no business in an office environment.
With that in mind, here’s a closer look at how gambling can be a serious and costly problem in the workplace.
Office pools – not just harmless fun
Holding office pools during sports tournaments or for other competitive events is a common practice of many companies. In most cases (depending on the jurisdiction), it’s not an illegal practice. In fact, many people find it fun, enjoy participating, and argue that it’s a great way to build morale and bring people together.
However, as a Huffington Post article reveals about this form of gambling within the office, there can be a darker side to these questionably ethical office pools.
For instance, when stakes are high, this could lead to disharmony in the workplace, distract employees from their work and lead to other problems like employment discrimination claims or claims of favouritism.
Office gambling may carry legal risks
Social gambling, like office pools, are often not against the law. However, according to Steve Biddle, shareholder of the Phoenix location of Littler (the largest global employment and labour law practice), this doesn’t mean that there is no legal risk involved.
Biddle stated that “The effects of workplace gambling can include lost time; lost productivity; and theft, fraud and embezzlement.” He explained that even if workplace gambling is not operated or sponsored by the company, there are still several legal risks.
For instance, there was a 2002 case in New Jersey where a manager was arrested and faced up to five years in prison for allegedly taking a 10% cut from an office football pool.
There have also been cases where employees have sued an employer, claiming they lost money in an office pool approved by the employer and that this triggered or caused them to relapse into their gambling addiction.
Problem gambling costs businesses
Gambling addiction can be a problem not only for the person it effects and their loved ones, but also for their employer. A study into the effect of problem gambling at work found that 10% of working adults in the UK have directly experienced the problems gambling can cause in a work/office environment. It also found that more than four in five UK adults think debt and gambling can be a distraction for people in the workplace.
As such, it is important employers understand the type of impact problem gambling can have on their employees and what these problems could cost their business. Employees with gambling problems may be frequently absent from work, have low productivity rates, could have poor mental health, could steal from the company, and bring damage to a company’s reputation.
Companies can support employees and protect themselves
If you have a gambling addiction or are worried that an employee or fellow co-worker may have a gambling problem, it is important that you know there is help. There are a number of support groups and socially responsible gaming organisations that can help with this problem.
You’ll discover that there are several resources online, such as PlayOJO’s responsible gaming guide that can make it easier to find a support network for gambling addiction. Learning about these support groups can help you understand how they work and how they can benefit your specific situation.
For instance, both The National Gambling HelpLine and GamCare offer counselling services that can support a company’s current Employee Assistance Programme and offer additional safeguarding. GamCare can even provide training for HR staff and managers to help them identify potential problem gambling behaviours.
The bottom line is that gambling addiction can affect any business and can be a real problem in the workplace. Employers need to be aware that even the most well-intended gambling activity meant to be fun, still carries a certain amount of risk.