In March 2020, global sporting events came to a grinding halt, and lockdown measures in the UK meant that non-essential stores had to close to help combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus. As well as the closing of stores on the Highstreet, social distancing guidelines meant that people stayed at home, often working from home or not at all, and only left home if they needed to. Even with the cancellation of popular sports events, gambling has not slowed. Experts by experience, academics, and health care professionals, stated that gambling-related harm was likely to rise in lockdown.
According to the NHS, lockdown measures introduced risks that may have led to more people turning to potentially more harmful products such as casino games and virtual sports betting.
Some of the risks that have been identified:
· Social isolation
· Increased Free Time
· Financial uncertainty
· Domestic conflict
· Gambling advertising and promotions
· Limited online regulation to prevent overspending
Note: Awareness of triggers, and how they may affect emotions and behaviours, is a crucial part of the Cognitive-Behavioural-Therapy (CBT). With RecoverMe, you should know that CBT is the cornerstone of our app and it is highly effective in helping those with a gambling problem.
Has gambling increased in the past few months?
The Gambling Commission has analysed the impact of Covid-19 on gambling, and some of the key findings are listed below:
· Data from the industry reflects that overall active player accounts have decreased in number by 3% and this is in part driven by a decrease of 11% of active players in real event betting.
· Although the number of bets placed on real event betting fell by 31%, virtual event betting rose by 40%, poker by 38%, slots by 25%, and other gaming (inc. casino) by 3%.
· According to YouGov research, a third of past four-week gamblers say that they have tried one or more gambling activities for the first time during the lockdown.
· Search interest for online-casinos has sharply risen in recent years, and this has peaked in lockdown.
· Two-thirds of more engaged gamblers have increased either the amount of time or money they have spent on gambling activities.
In short, overall, the prevalence of gambling is at a similar or slightly lower rate in lockdown. However, for the majority of those who participate in multiple activities (3 or more), gambling increased. And it is no surprise that the number of gambling sessions which lasted over one hour increased by 23%.
What about Gambling Advertising in lockdown?
In late April 2020, the UK’s largest betting and gaming companies (the Betting and Gaming Council), which make up about 90% of the industry, volunteered to cease advertising their products on TV and radio during the lockdown. The self-imposed ban was scheduled to last for about a month (from May 7th and until at least June 5th).
MPs have criticised this ban in a few different ways. Firstly, it was suggested that the ban should have been in place from day one of lockdown. After the ban was put in place, the betting industry was accused of running ‘thinly veiled’ adverts in the form of social responsibility messages. Other criticisms include the decision to omit action on online advertising, where the industry spends 80% of their budget or £1.2bn annually.
Fast forward by almost three months, from the shutting of non-essential shops on March 27th to June 15th, and betting shops have been allowed to open. Sport is also back on.
The extent of gambling-harm in lockdown, such as the escalation of addictive tendencies, is yet to be adequately analysed. Nevertheless, what we know already is worrisome on an individual level but also on a population-level, given the sheer numbers of gamblers harmed. Gambling as a public health issue needs to be addressed now more than ever, given that the health effects and the economic consequences of Covid-19 are expected to be long-lasting.
What help is available?
RecoverMe is a mobile application that will be available to download in Mid-September. It will be the first of its kind app to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy and other support tools tailored to help those with a gambling problem. The app has been made by NHS doctors with the help of psychologists, psychiatrists, and most importantly, individuals who previously had a gambling disorder. If you’d like to be one of the first to try the app out, register your interest at www.recovermeapp.co.uk
Gamblers Anonymous UK runs support groups that use the same 12-step approach to recovery from addiction as Alcoholics Anonymous. Help available via a Forum, Chat Room, Literature and of course most importantly a meeting finder. Meetings are available online.
GamCare offers free information, support and counselling for problem gamblers in the UK. It runs the National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133) and offers live-chat options that are also available 24 hours a day.
NHS Problem Gambling Clinics For individuals aged 16 or over, living in England or Wales, and have complex problems related to gambling; you can refer yourself to specialist NHS clinics. Contact the National Clinic based in South-West London at firstname.lastname@example.org, providing a contact number or 020 7381 7722, leaving a contact number. The Northern NHS Gambling Clinic can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com providing a contact number, a call on 0300 3001490, or a service contact form.
Gordon Moody Association offers residential courses – email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01384 241292 to find out more.
GamAnon A great place to get some immediate advice and support if you are affected by a gambling problem in your family.
Samaritans To help with whatever you are going through, call for free on 116 123.
Childline Help for those up to the age of 18, call for free on 0800 1111 or chat online
Written by Kishan Patel