GAMSTOP, the free, independent self-exclusion tool for people living in the UK, has announced that more than 55,000 women have registered to self-exclude from all online gambling sites through the tool.
The proportion of women self-excluding through GAMSTOP has risen since the coronavirus pandemic struck last year. In March 2020, 26% of all registrants to GAMSTOP were women, a number that had risen beyond 31% by the end of the year.
Surpassing the 50,000 mark in registrations is significant in demonstrating that online gambling addiction, often regarded as being a ‘male’ problem that is linked to sport, is having an increasing impact on women.
Statistics released by the National Gambling Treatment Service had already shown an increasing number of women receiving treatment, up from 19% in 2015/16 to nearly 25% in the year to the end of March 2020. This coincides with increases in those with an addiction to gambling online, up from 57% to 69%.
According to Gamcare, the number of women reporting gambling problems is increasing at double the rate of men, but only 1% of women who experience gambling related harm contact the National Gambling Helpline.
Reacting to the news, GAMSTOP CEO Fiona Palmer said: “As we begin to understand the demographic make up of our register it is important to feed back to the various support agencies and work together to encourage those women who have registered with GAMSTOP to access the help they may need going forward. 50,000 female registrants is a significant number and we are pleased that they have found the GAMSTOP self-exclusion scheme and that it is a useful practical tool to help with their gambling issues.”
Psychotherapist Liz Karter added: “The pandemic is creating a perfect storm of triggers for addictive gambling in women: feeling trapped, anxious and depressed, and overwhelmed by families or loneliness. As mental health problems increase so too will addiction to gambling. I treat young women who are wild with anxiety and stress, and for whom gambling started as self-medication, but the end results are always devastating costs to their mental health and finances. Women feel that they will be judged more for a gambling addiction than an addiction related to drink or drugs, even though the physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms are similar, and equally dangerous.”
Lisa Walker, who has been in recovery from gambling addiction for more than two years, and now counsels others who are struggling with addiction said: “There is such a big stigma that women don’t gamble, which isn’t accurate. What I have found is that women don’t feel that they can talk about their addiction, with it often being seen as a male issue. I think its fantastic that women are signing up to GAMSTOP and seeking help, though it also shows that there is lots more work to be done.
“I have spoken with many women who don’t feel they can go to support meetings, and I find it so upsetting that somebody could feel that way, as though they can’t even seek help. I hope things change and if we can increase the visibility of women who are recovering in the media, that could make a big difference.”
Anna Hemmings, CEO of leading national gambling support charity GamCare, concluded: “We must get to grips with the unnecessary shame and stigma women feel around asking for help with gambling. Gambling is not just a male activity, and it can affect women in significant, potentially life-changing ways.
“Our dedicated Women’s Programme has told us that we need to remove barriers for women to access help with gambling related harm – the issues that women are facing are often hidden from support services. GamCare is pleased to be able to work with GAMSTOP so people registering for online self-exclusion can also be swiftly connected through to specialist support and treatment services, which greatly increases the chance of sustaining a recovery from gambling harms.”