GamCare reports “sudden influx” in helpline calls following Paul Merson interview.
Advisors at the National Gambling Helpline are reporting a “sudden influx” in phonecalls, following former Arsenal and England footballer Paul Merson’s interview about his gambling addiction with Good Morning Britain.
One caller to the National Gambling Helpline, operated by GamCare, told an advisor that the interview had ‘hit home’ and encouraged him to call the Helpline, while another caller remarked “the interview had resonated with him and made him realise that his own gambling was problematic.”
Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme on Tuesday, Merson gave an interview ahead of the release of his new book where he detailed his history with gambling addiction. During the interview, it was revealed that Paul had relapsed on his gambling over the course of lockdown last year yet was now back on the path to recovery.
In addition to callers concerned about their own gambling, one advisor heard from a caller whose partner was having issues with gambling yet was struggling to self-exclude from some gambling sites. The caller enquired about how to use software that would block access to online sites, bookmakers and casinos all at once after it was referenced in the interview.
Following the calls, one GamCare helpline advisor remarked that Paul’s story was synonymous with many of the calls the charity had received over lockdown. Issues such as relapsing during the pandemic, losing house deposits due to gambling-related debt, and how blocking software had been helpful have been regularly cited by callers over the past year.
Anna Hemmings, Chief Executive at GamCare, said: “The sudden influx of calls we have received following Paul’s interview highlights how important it is to speak up on issues around gambling, to help tackle the stigma and ultimately to reduce gambling related harm. We know how difficult it can be for people to speak publicly about gambling- their own or someone else’s- and it is encouraging to see public figures such as Paul come forward on Good Morning Britain and to see the positive influence it can have on others seeking help.
“We urge anyone who is struggling with gambling to contact us on the National Gambling Helpline. We want you to know we are here for you, we understand and we can help. If you think someone you know needs support, please get in touch.”
Overall in 2020/2021, GamCare received over 41,000 calls to the National Gambling Helpline, a nine per cent increase compared to the previous year. A total of 43% of contacts were made up from online chats, up from 37% the previous year, with callers indicating they were increasingly concerned about privacy in the home.
Other key trends from the Helpline and GamCare’s treatment services in 2020-21 show:
· 77% of gamblers contacting the Helpline identified as male
· 84% of people who called the helpline over concerns about someone else’s gambling (affected others) are women
· During the first and second lockdown in November, privacy concerns may have driven live chat to overtake calls, and in January this year, we saw the same pattern of changes again
· 55,000 treatment sessions were delivered to 10,000 people – gamblers accounted for 83% of clients
· 73% of gamblers and 85% of those affected by someone else’s gambling attending treatment identified family/relationship difficulties as a significant impact of problem gambling
· Two thirds (66%) of gamblers attending treatment reported having debt issues
· Over one in ten gamblers attending treatment reported alcohol misuse
GamCare has worked extensively along with our partner network to overcome the issues presented by lockdown, to ensure those struggling with gambling related harms can continue to access free specialist treatment and support over the phone or online as part of the full range of services offered across the National Gambling Treatment Service (NGTS), and if people have complex needs, we can refer them to other NGTS providers.
For more information contact: