Charities that support gambling addicts are bracing themselves for a rise in demand when new laws come into effect next year.
Gamcare, the UK's only nationwide charity for problem gamblers, is concerned that the 2005 Gambling Act could create a crisis as a handful of voluntary and private sector providers struggle to cope with demand created by new social responsibility requirements for operators.
From 2007, casinos and other betting venues will have to provide information about help for gambling-related problems and are expected to refer people to these providers.
Gamcare welcomes the ethos of the Act, but is anxious about the effect on service providers. "There's no NHS provision at all," said Adrian Scarfe, clinical practice manager at Gamcare.
Scarfe believes the sector needs urgent government help and greater funds to devise an action plan. The charity is also looking at broadening its funding base to be less reliant on the Responsibility in Gambling Trust, the commissioning body for treatment, education and research into problem gambling.
Gamcare receives almost all of its funding from the trust, set up by the Government to distribute social responsibility donations from industry.
The charity was previously funded by direct corporate donations.
"We find it better to be funded through an independent trust," said Scarfe.
"But when you get 100 per cent funding from one place it makes you vulnerable."