With lockdown restrictions easing and a summer of sport ahead, staff at Britain’s biggest gambling support charity GamCare say the full impact of the Euros is still unknown and are preparing for an increase in calls to their helpline over the coming months.
Regular gamblers are known to have spent more time and money on the activity during lockdown*. The charity is concerned that this, combined with a summer of sport, could heighten the vulnerability of some gamblers and is calling for increased support for people at risk of gambling related harms, including young people- who make up the majority of those it helps- and recovered gamblers.
GamCare’s helpline advisers, who operate the National Gambling Helpline, have had to call the emergency services for people who directly related their crisis to the Euros. Over half of the charity’s helpline advisers** have taken calls from at least one recovered gambler who relapsed during the Euros, with reports that people are going to more extreme lengths to gamble. Staff have heard from people using their children’s phones to avoid gambling blocks, changing their appearance to enter betting shops from which they had previously self-excluded from, and creating accounts in partners or family names to gamble online before a football match.
Advisers are also hearing from people affected by someone else’s gambling, identifying emotional and financial abuse since the Euros started this summer.
The charity is concerned that the pandemic has accelerated an online gambling crisis. Annualised GamCare helpline and treatment data, taking in three lockdowns,*** shows that eight in 10 calls are from people concerned about their online gambling habits, or someone else’s. This is an increase from seven in 10 the previous year. Overall, in 2020-21, GamCare saw an eight per cent increase in calls to the National Gambling Helpline compared to the previous year.
Other key trends from the Helpline and GamCare’s treatment services in 2020-21 include:
- 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 commissioned Kings College London to review five years of treatment data (April 2015 to March 2020) to explore outcomes in treatment. It is one of the largest studies of gambling treatment undertaken in recent years with over 27,000 episodes of care studied. It shows that treatment is effective and that significant improvement in clients is seen in just three sessions. The data also shows that GamCare’s treatment services represent value for money and are respected and recognised for their outcomes.
Anna Hemmings, Chief Executive, at GamCare, said: “We know that people who use our services find it difficult to enjoy live sport, especially football tournaments like the Euros, in their recovery. With so many sports events over the summer, coupled with the difficulties people have experienced in the pandemic, we’re concerned we may see a spike in helpline calls over the coming months. We urge anyone who is struggling with gambling to contact us, whether it’s their own or someone else’s gambling. We want you to know we are here for you, we understand and we can help you. If you think someone you know needs support, please get in touch.
“The vast majority of those reaching out for help are gambling online. The experiences of our helpline callers and our research consistently shows this to be an area of concern for us and people that use our services. Our latest helpline and treatment data shows online gambling has increased over the pandemic and we will certainly be monitoring this trend to see if it continues as lockdown is lifted. This is important detail as the government continues with the review of the 2005 Gambling Act, working to bring about effective change to protect those who need it most.”
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 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.