WHETHER playing slots at the seaside or betting on horses - having an occasional flutter can, potentially, become a serious problem for some.

In addition to the traditional ways of placing a bet on the high street, the ability to gamble online has broadened the temptation and, for some, it is an opportunity they cannot resist.

For those with an addiction it is usually a secret kept well hidden. Online research conducted by YouGov shows that more than one in four working adults who gamble across Great Britain would prefer to keep the extent of their gambling hidden from colleagues.

The problem is particularly acute in the finance, accountancy and legal sectors where more than a third worry about their work colleagues finding out about their gambling.

Those with management responsibility are more likely to have gambled in the last year than those without management responsibility. Almost three quarters of people surveyed think that businesses should be concerned about the negative impact of gambling on their employees.

Fifty five per cent of adults in West Yorkshire gamble at least once a year or more often; 10 per cent gamble at least once a week; 21 per cent know someone for whom gambling has negatively affected their work; 84 per cent think gambling and debt can be a distraction for people at work and more than one in three wouldn't want their colleagues to know how much they gamble.

The unemployed are twice as likely to use controversial Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, one of the major growth areas for high street betting shops, as those who are in work.

With an estimated 35,000 machines across the UK, bets of up to £100 can be placed every 20 seconds, meaning a problem gambler could lose up to £1,500 in just five minutes.

Now a report into gambling from Reed in Partnership, which provides employment support services, is calling for businesses to take more action to support staff who may struggle with problem gambling, and for employment support programmes to do more to identify the early signs of gambling addiction.

The report also calls on businesses to have strict workplace gambling policies, with risks to finances and addressing the detrimental impact on employees' wellbeing. This could include better information in the work place so that employees can recognise if they, or one of their colleagues, is at the early stages of becoming a problem gambler.

Martin Fallon, managing director of Reed in Partnership, says: "It's important that we provide adequate support and guidance for those who are at risk of losing their jobs because of gambling, and those whose addiction is stopping them from getting back into the workplace.

"At the same time Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, which are particularly attractive to the unemployed, have such high limits that you could lose one month's work of Job Seeker's Allowance in less than one minute."

Reed in Partnership is also looking at how more can be done to identify those at risk of developing a gambling problem through a diagnostic tool known as the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) and then providing advice and signposting to appropriate services.

The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) has also published a new strategy aimed at minimising gambling-related harm over the next three years.

The National Responsible Gambling Strategy sets the agenda for a range of organisations including gambling operators, regulators, commissioning organisations, government, trade bodies, treatment providers and a number of other public agencies.

Sir Christopher Kelly, RGSB chairman, said: “The overarching aim is to minimise gambling-related harm. Gambling-related harm goes wider than the harm experienced by those identified as problem gamblers by existing screening tools - it can also affect the families of gamblers, their employers, their communities and society more widely... The strategy represents a huge opportunity to improve social responsibility in gambling, and minimise gambling-related harm.”

A spokesman for GamCare, an organisation offering free information, advice and support for anyone affected by problem gambling says: "We acknowledge that for many, gambling is not a harmful activity and can be a fun leisure pastime. For some it can become a serious problem, and we believe it’s important for people to properly understand the risks associated with gambling. If someone is spending more time or money on gambling than they would like to, or they begin to see it is having a negative impact in other areas of their life, support is available."

GamCare also operates a national Gambling Helpline as well as free counselling for problem gamblers, their family and close friends throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

For more information call freephone 0808 8020 133 or visit gamcare.org.uk.