Northern Ireland is in the grip of a spiralling gambling epidemic, it has been claimed.
With it being easier than ever to make bets, an organisation dedicated to helping those addicted to gambling is currently campaigning for charity status to reach out to more of those affected.
According to Gamblers Anonymous, around 500 people are currently using their services in Belfast, with 25-30 addicts meeting every night of the week to share their experiences.
A spokesman for the group said the problem of gambling here is hugely underestimated and needs to be given the same profile and support as bodies set up for those with alcohol and drug addictions. Currently Gamblers Anonymous is completely self-sufficient and is seeking charity status.
The Belfast branch is open seven days a week to those needing help and provides a confidential haven for gambling addicts and their families.
One member said the body has literally saved his life. The man — who asked not to be named — attempted suicide because of the burden of his gambling.
“I had to hit rock bottom,” he said. “I lost everything. I could have had three houses for the money I gambled over the years.
“I didn’t know how to stop. Gambling became more important than my family.”
A Gambling Anonymous spokesman said: “We have some people who have been coming for 10, 15, 20 years.
“Everything’s geared towards gambling at the moment, it’s all over the TV, you have mobile phone apps, it’s in your face.
“We currently have no funding, we can’t accept anything.
“If we can get charitable status that will free up money for us to put back into the programme.”
Gamblers Anonymous can be contacted at 028 90249185 or visit www.belfastga.com