Guest blogger Jenny focuses on GamCare’s projects to support vulnerable women affected by problem gambling
Given that men are more likely to experience problem gambling than women, it may not be a surprise that the majority of the callers to the National Gambling HelpLine, 70% in fact, are men. But there are real problems behind the perception that problem gambling is mostly a ‘male issue’.
Using GamCare and Gambling Commission data, we estimate that only around 1% of women who experience gambling related harm contact the National Gambling Helpline. There is no doubt that women are underrepresented in gambling specific treatment.
Men are more likely to call us because of their own problem gambling, whereas women are much more likely to call about someone else’s gambling; 54% of men, as opposed to 41% of the women who contact the HelpLine, call because of their own gambling.
GamCare can support anyone affected by any gambling related harm, whether they are gamblers themselves or not. We estimate that for every problem gambler, between 4 and 7 other people are negatively, often significantly, impacted by the problem. But we are worried that problem gambling is a much more hidden problem for women, and we want to encourage more women to feel comfortable to seek support. Feelings of shame about gambling problems often hold people back from talking about the issue, and this could be even worse for women.
Women are also often disproportionately negatively impacted by gambling related harms from someone else’s gambling, which can include significant safeguarding issues, harm to finances and relationships, and impacts on mental health and wellbeing. These problems tend to be more deep-rooted, with far reaching impacts on their families, communities and personal lives.
There are a few implications for gambling treatment, because the drivers of compulsive gambling behaviours and the choice of gambling activity can often differ between men and women. Online gambling is generally more appealing to women than more ‘traditional’ forms of gambling, like going to a betting shop. Women often juggle multiple roles and responsibilities, but the internet offers 24/7 access to gambling activities. Online gambling is also usually quite solitary, and that makes it easier to hide if a problem develops.
For many women, a compulsion to gamble may be influenced by difficult emotional experiences in their past, and gambling gives them a chance to temporarily escape from difficult thoughts and feelings. The implications for this on some of the most vulnerable women in our society – for example, those who have faced situations such as domestic abuse, trafficking, child exploitation, or sexual violence – mean that they are particularly susceptible to developing issues with gambling.
So, a picture is starting to build where female problem gamblers are less likely to reach out for help themselves, and the existing routes into treatment have historically been directed more at men. Moreover, it is the most vulnerable women in our society who are more likely to experience a problem and could benefit from support, but yet, they are the least likely to seek it.
GamCare is delighted to have been awarded funding from the Tampon Tax team in the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to run a new nationwide programme to address these challenges, and to make sure the interests of vulnerable women and girls are properly represented in the gambling treatment sector.
The project will build a nationwide network of local public sector and third sector organisations that work with women, to spread awareness of the problem gambling and it’s many impacts, and how it relates to other issues that women may face. We aim to build up our referral network into gambling treatment for women so that we can encourage more women to receive the right help and support, preferably before issues become catastrophic.
We will also work within the gambling treatment sector to upskill all practitioners about the specific issues that affect vulnerable women. We will build on information and learning for the whole treatment sector to ensure that our response to vulnerable women is sensitive and well informed. We will also work with the gambling industry to ensure that they are able to use this learning to improve their safer play and responsible gambling strategies.
GamCare and this project wants to hear from you
Are you interested in this area of work? This is a fully funded project and we can work with and support any public and third sector organisation that works with vulnerable women and girls for any reason. We are be able to provide information, resources, free training and local networking opportunities. We can also assist in helping your organisation identify women who might benefit from specialist support around gambling, and make sure they are referred to the right place.
If you are a woman who has experienced problem gambling, or been affected by someone else’s gambling, and would like to share your insights and experience, there are opportunities for you to input into how we build this programme – we really want to hear from you.
We also would like to link up with any academics that are interested in research in this area. The links between problem gambling and issues such as domestic abuse for example are underexplored. We want to facilitate opportunities for primary research in this and any other areas affecting vulnerable women.
If anyone from the gambling industry has already done work or or is interested in exploring the impact of problem gambling on women, then please contact us.
Email [email protected] for more information.
And if you need support now?
Then talk to us now! As a woman, you might imagine that treatment for a gambling problem is aimed at men and delivered by men. Here at GamCare, we have both male and female practitioners on our team, and we can support anyone affected by gambling. If you’d rather see a female practitioner, all you have to do is ask.
Our practitioners can give you the safe, confidential space you need to work through the issues and situations connected to problem gambling in your life, and we will work with you to find the best methods of dealing with these situations going forward. This service can be provided either face-to-face, online or over the phone.