UK Gambling Charity Sees Scary Problem-Gambling Spike from 30 to 1,000 Per Month in Lockdown

Posted on: July 20, 2020, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: July 21, 2020, 12:54h.

A UK gambling charity has reported that the number of people seeking help for a problem gambling jumped from around 30 per month to 1,000 per month during the lockdown.

UK gambling
“Stay home, stay safe” was the message, but for a small but apparently increasing percentage of the UK population, lockdown at home presented pitfalls. (Image: Sky News)

The extraordinary claim comes from the Gordon Moody Association (GMA) — one of the oldest gambling charities in the country. The organization also noted that the number of women and young people seeking treatment or advice had increased significantly.

“We did feel that we were likely to experience a major storm because of the coronavirus crisis, and now we think that the reality is that these figures may yet be the first signs of the storm,” the charity’s chief executive, Matthew Hickey, told The Guardian.

“Now that we’re moving into the second quarter of 2020, we’re definitely seeing an upsurge in numbers,” he continued.

Startling Numbers

Factors like financial distress, isolation, and boredom — all symptoms of lockdown — are known triggers of addiction. Meanwhile, the widespread cancellation of sports led to fears that sports bettors would gravitate to supposedly riskier online casino games.

But the numbers cited by the GMA are surprising.

The UK’s biggest gambling charity, GamCare, which runs the National Gambling Helpline, has not released figures for comparison. In mid-April, it told The Financial Times it had actually seen a drop-off in callers to the helpline.

But Gamcare also said it had received a worrying amount of calls from people trying to remove themselves from self-exclusion programs. GamCare chief executive Anna Hemmings told the FT at the time she was worried lockdown hadcreated a situation where those people may feel they can’t get help confidentially” at a time when they were at their most vulnerable.

In late April, a poll by Surveytion suggested that Brits, in general, were gambling less during the lockdown. But, perhaps significantly, 38 percent of those who classed themselves as “regular gamblers” said they were gambling more.

Online Casino Uptick

The UK betting industry has largely reported that revenues were down overall during the coronavirus pandemic, but online casino games and poker increased.

Concerns about an explosion of problem gambling led to politicians calling for a cap in daily online spending of £50 ($63) during the crisis, mirroring measures that were taken in some European countries, such as Portugal, Belgium, and even lockdown-averse Sweden.

It didn’t happen, but long-planned measures to ban credit cards for gambling deposits came into force in April.

The UK embarked on a phased emergence from its lockdown from the beginning of June, although casinos and nightclubs remain closed.

Having seen the highest amount of deaths from coronavirus in Europe — and currently, the third-highest in the world — the incidences of the disease are now low in the UK.