Pedro Romero – Gambling Therapy – A helping hand

The Gordon Moody Association is a charity which helps problem gamblers. It recently launched the Gambling Therapy app, a free multi-lingual advice service to further help those in need of such support. 

Pedro Romero, Gambling Therapy
Pedro Romero, Gambling Therapy

Pedro Romero is the Head of Gambling Therapy. Romero spoke at the World Regulatory Briefing in London back in September about the forthcoming app aimed at preventing and tackling problem gambling.

It’s now live and available to download so we caught up with Pedro to discuss its launch, the industry and problem gambling in 2016, and his hopes for the future.

SBC: So this app is the ‘first of its kind’, can you explain why and further introduce your own diverse background, and your company, to SBC readers?

Pedro: We have developed an app that includes self-help exercises from evidence based therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness. For many people experiencing gambling issues it is difficult to talk about their problems. It was important for us to include features that can facilitate the user to take his first step in their recovery journey, gain confidence, increase awareness and seek further help.

Regarding my experience, I worked for a few years as Head of Operations of a major bookmaker having a thorough and inside knowledge of the gambling industry. I am also psychologist and a psychodynamic/CBT counsellor with a sound knowledge of addictive disorders. Apart from my role at Gambling Therapy, I am chairman of Rock Clinic Association in Brighton and I also work in University Counselling Services at the University of Sussex.

I understood that there is an increasing need to improve standards across the industry and provide support to those in a difficult situation so I decided to find a role that combines my passion for mental health and experience in the gambling industry. There are only a few people with the blend of these skills and I believe that I am in a privileged position to catalyse change and help to improve standards.

At Gambling Therapy (part of the Gordon Moody Association) we provide online support for problem gamblers and their loved ones worldwide. We currently have live support in six languages and resources in 29 other languages, last year we received over one million visits from 223 countries.

SBC: You mention this is only the beginning in the press release for the app’s launch.. what else can be added to it? Are the app’s features something which could be integrated directly into an operator’s site for instance?

Pedro: We have so many ideas, we just need the support to keep developing the app. We would like to add multilingual support, to make the self-help exercises interactive, add additional mindfulness recordings, develop an ‘urges tracker’, include therapeutic groups, infographics, relapse prevention advice, etc.

Additional resources would most definitely speed up the process. We are convinced that the app will be a success and there will be the need to refresh it periodically with new contents and features.  

SBC: In your opinion are operators doing enough to tackle problem gambling, and moreover in what ways could they most feasibly improve in the short term? Is it a case of a select few letting the industry down or does everybody need to take a look in the mirror?

Pedro: There are many areas of improvement to be made. Some operators have identified that tackling problem gambling is not only a tick box, but key to their long term business and licensing in different jurisdictions.

There are operators that lead the way and others that have not yet recognised the importance of being proactive when dealing with potential problem gambling issues.

Operators need to provide their responsible gambling teams with more resources, expertise and influence within company.

SBC: The app includes a self assessment questionnaire.. Do you think one of the key issues with problem gambling is that victims may not realise the extent of their addiction?

Pedro: To introduce tools that can help a user with concerns about his gambling can be very helpful. On some occasions, there could be a level of denial in a person with an addictive disorder.

I think one of the key issues of problem gambling is the stigma, there is the need to facilitate help for people that are in distress and need to talk about their problems. I think accessibility to talking therapies is key not only for problem gambling but for any other types of addictive disorders.

People use unhelpful coping mechanisms to deal with distress and take their minds away from anxiety which can be caused by multiple problems. Technology has made gambling ubiquitous and very accessible, the same technology can provide tools for harm minimisation, awareness and support if enough resources are invested.

SBC: The app also includes a list of organisations that are there to help, the assumption being that sufferers may also not know where to turn and be frightened to ask around due to the stigma attached to it. Which are the ones doing some great work that the industry should know about?

Pedro: It is very important for the operators to have accurate information.

On occasion they route people struggling with gambling to organisations that don’t provide services in a particular jurisdiction; this is the last thing people with problem gambling issues need. It is very important for operators to work on their responsible gambling sections and provide resources depending on the geolocation of their users.

One of the advantages of Gambling Therapy is that we provide support worldwide.

There are many organisations doing great work and most of the time is for the service user to decide which organisation adjusts better to their needs. We include in our app a number of different organisations in different countries.

Those interested in getting in touch with Pedro can reach him at [email protected]

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