GamCare has revealed that the number of calls to its National Gambling Helpline increased during 2021/22, citing economic instability and rising living costs.
The charity published its annual report for 2021/22, which covers the 12 month period ending 31 March of this year, detailing its findings and operations over the past 365 days.
Regarding the helpline, one of GamCare’s primary operational focuses, calls increased by 5% during 2021-22 to 42,070, the group explained – the highest since the service was launched.
On the other hand, the number of people receiving treatment declined ‘slightly’ from 2020-21, standing at 9,728 people, whilst a gender imbalance saw 70% of helpline callers identify as men and 30% as women.
The charity has highlighted the impact of the costs of living crisis and wider economic unrest in its report, as well as general political and industry uncertainty as stakeholders continue to await the several-times-delayed Gambling Act review outcome.
“While 2021-22 has been characterised by continuing uncertainty, coming out of lockdown and the Gambling Act White Paper delayed further, what we’ve seen from our data is an increasing demand for GamCare’s services,” said Anna Hemmings, GamCare CEO.
“In this context, our teams have demonstrated incredible resilience and agility, offering a more diverse range of support than ever before to support people with gambling harm.”
Of note, GamCare’s report identified that many participants were experiencing financial trouble, with a substantial amount stating that they had incurred debts as a result of problem gambling.
Specifically, 62% of surveyed gamblers reported financial difficulties, 57% disclosed having built up debt due to gambling, and 46% of ‘affected others’ – such as relatives of problem gamblers – also reported financial difficulties.
In turn, financial difficulties were cited as a cause for gambling by 32% of the 7,500 service users who responded to this question, although chasing losses was the biggest factor at 64%, followed by escapism and boredom at 33%each.
The report also found a geographic disparity in terms of experienced problem gambling and associated harm, with the North West, South East, East of England and London accounting for 62% of those accessing treatment.
“Looking forward, with rising costs now impacting people, we know that many who rely on our service will be affected and are monitoring this closely,” Hemmings continued.
“Last year almost one-third of people who contacted our Helpline cited financial difficulties as the reason they initially chose to gamble. However, after their experiences of gambling, this figure jumps to three in four people who say they experience financial difficulties now as a result of it.
“We know that gambling should not be seen as a financial opportunity, we are here for anyone struggling with their gambling through the cost-of-living crisis.”
Post-March developments have seen GamCare announce the trial of the ‘Way Forward’ programme aimed specifically at female problem gamblers – who its report noted, as mentioned above, comprise around a third of those seeking help.
Additionally, the charity is also launching a package which would enable betting businesses to transfer safer gambing calls straight to the National Gambling Helpline, which it believes will assist operators in meeting updated UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) requirements.