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Up to one million women in Great Britain at risk of gambling harms

· New analysis shows up to one million women could be at risk from gambling harms
· Women more likely than men to say their gambling has caused them mental health issues such as stress and anxiety
· Almost 40% of women experiencing high levels of gambling harm may not seek out help due to stigma or shame
· New campaign launched by GambleAware highlights critical early warning signs and support available at BeGambleAware.org

New analysis shows up to one million women in Great Britain could be at risk of experiencing harm from gambling, the charity GambleAware has warned, as they launch a new campaign today (31 January) for women to highlight the warning signs of problem gambling and signpost towards support.

Among women experiencing high levels of harm, two in five (39%) may refrain from seeking help or treatment due to perceived stigma, such as feeling embarrassed, or not wanting people to know about their gambling.

The warning comes as new statistics also released today show activity on gambling websites popular with women peaks in the winter months – with total average traffic between December and March up by 29% compared to the rest of the year.

In response, GambleAware has launched its first ever harms prevention campaign specifically aimed at women to engage women around critical warning signs and where to seek support before gambling becomes harmful.

The three key warning signs to look for in someone who may be starting to experience harms from gambling;

  • losing track of time;
  • spending more than you can afford; and
  • keeping your gambling secret from those around you. 

Alongside this resource, the campaign launches with a new video staring Angellica Bell speaking to gambling and health experts to highlight the unique stigma and challenges women experiencing gambling harms may face.

Zoë Osmond, Chief Executive of GambleAware, said:

“We are launching this new gambling harms prevention campaign at a time when there may be up to a million women at risk of gambling harms.

“Our research shows women may not be aware they are starting to experience harm from gambling or, may be worried about reaching out for support due to stigma or shame.

“That’s why our campaign highlights the warning signs to look out for, so we can support women who gamble and prevent them from developing gambling harms.

“Anyone concerned about their gambling, or that of a loved one, can visit BeGambleAware.org for free, confidential advice and support, or The National Gambling Helpline is available on 0808 8020 133 and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Gambling Minister Chris Philp said:

"I welcome this campaign to increase awareness of problem gambling among women. It's vital that we continue to do all we can to protect those at risk from gambling-related harm.

"The gambling landscape has evolved immeasurably in the past 15 years and our comprehensive gambling act review will ensure our gambling laws offer the right balance of protections in the digital age." 

Health Minister, Gillian Keegan, said:

“While the economic costs of harmful gambling are stark, the cost to individuals and those around them as a result of their addiction cannot be overstated.

“This campaign is a fantastic way to raise awareness about the harms of gambling which can impact an individual, as well as their friends and family. By highlighting the early warning signs, supporting women and providing advice we can help to stop harmful gambling dead in its tracks.

“More widely, we are working to protect vulnerable people from the damaging impacts gambling can have, including through specialist NHS gambling addiction clinics, as part of our investment of an extra £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24 to expand mental health services.”

Liz Karter MBE, leading UK expert in gambling addiction in women and a gambling addiction counsellor, said:

“Gambling behaviours manifest themselves differently in women than men. For example, we know the easy availability of online gambling leads many women to games which appear innocent and socially acceptable. The games seem safe and familiar, as they are so similar to the free play digital games we are all now used to playing.

“In addition, the hopes of financial gains can prove a powerful motivator. While gambling doesn’t always lead to harm, it’s vital women are aware of early warning signs including losing track of time, incurring increasing debt, or a tendency to hide gambling from others or gambling to forget their problems”.

The number of women receiving treatment for gambling has doubled in the past five years – up from 1,134 in 2015/16 to 2,423 in 2020/21. Yet despite a growing number accessing services such as The National Gambling Treatments Service or the National Helpline, this only represent a fraction of those who are experiencing gambling harms.

Gambling-related harms take many forms, with negative impacts possible on peoples’ resources, relationships and health and include those experienced by other people, not just the gambler – including families, children of gamblers, employers, communities and society more generally. 

Anyone concerned about their gambling, or that of a loved one, can visit BeGambleAware.org for free, confidential advice and support, or The National Gambling Helpline is available on 0808 8020 133 and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

                                                                        ENDS

For more information, please contact: gambleaware@freuds.com

Notes to editors:

Additional quotes

Experts by lived experience said:

“I started gambling online when I was in my mid 40s. At the time, it felt harmless – a £10 bet here and there. But it quickly escalated, and I found that I spent all my free time gambling and making up excuses not to socialise. I became so engrossed in the apps, that I wasn’t aware of much going on around me. I tried various treatments, but it wasn’t until my sister helped me seek support through Gordon Moody that I found something that worked. Since walking through the doors 3 years ago, I haven’t placed a bet. They provided me with non-judgemental advice and equipped me with the tools to live gamble free for life.” - Bev

“Gambling was a way of escaping real life and filling a void. It was never really about the money. I initially sought help 28 years ago, and although it has been a long and challenging road, it’s important women are aware that there are support options available, as well as people who understand. The first step is opening up about your experience and knowing that you are not alone.” - Tracy 

“I became a mum at a young age, and that’s when I found online gambling. I saw it as my ‘me’ time – time to close off from the world around me. I could do it anywhere – standing in the supermarket queue, waiting for my son to come out of school, I never switched off.  When I did eventually seek support from someone who also struggled with gambling problems, I felt really inspired to get my life back on track. Being women who gamble, we do sometimes face a unique stigma – especially in this day and age when you’re expected to do it all. It’s incredibly helpful to see more and more women coming forward to share their stories, and I hope it will help empowers others to also do the same.” - Jemima 

“For me, gambling was an escape from reality, as I had so many problems going on in my own life. The turning point came when I realised how my gambling was taking over my life and impacting my relationships with my loved ones. I realised I just couldn’t live a life of lies anymore. I have attended support meetings ever since. It is hard and I know I’ll have to go for the rest of my life but since I started my recovery, I speak to more people like me, and I’m trying to help as many women as I can to share their stories. There are still very few women who attend peer support meetings, but I am seeing an increasing number of women who contact me. I am so passionate about ending the stigma surrounding women and gambling.” - Lisa

Tim Miller, Executive Director of the Gambling Commission said:

“Public information campaigns like these are absolutely vital to raising awareness of the risks of gambling harms, and we support any initiative which offers support and advice to help those gambling do so in a safe manner. Alongside strong regulatory requirements on gambling companies, it plays an important role in preventing and reducing gambling-related harms.”

Prof Maria Fannin, Professor of Human Geography and feminist scholar, University of Bristol said:

“We conducted a Rapid Evidence Assessment which found that much of the academic research on gambling has long focused on men or assumes that only men may develop problems with gambling. This is starting to change as we learn more from women themselves and their experiences.

“We want to know more about how gambling becomes part of women’s lives and how their experiences may differ from men’s. Ultimately, we want our work to change the public perception and awareness of who can develop problems with gambling and ensure women’s needs and concerns are taken into account.”

Anna Hemmings, CEO of GamCare said:  

“At GamCare, We know that stigma and shame is a key barrier to women disclosing concerns about their gambling or someone close to them.  We hope this new campaign will help to break down the stigma which affects women at risk of experiencing gambling harms.”  

“We operate the National Gambling Helpline – a 24 hours a day, seven days a week helpline, that people can call for free practical advice, information and support around gambling. Anyone can call on 0808 8020 133 and speak to an advisor, or contact the Helpline on live chat through the GamCare website, where they can also access a range of resources and be referred for free, confidential support sessions.”

Frankie Graham, CEO of Betknowmore said:

“We are pleased to welcome this much needed campaign to highlight the warning signs of harmful gambling among women. Alongside this, it’s important that it’s clear people know where to go for help and advice should they need it.

“We also found existing support services were not adequately tailored to meet the specific needs of women. More needs to be done to raise awareness of the harms of gambling among women and this campaign is an important first step.”

Additional resources

Building Knowledge of Women’s Lived Experience of Gambling and Gambling Harms across Great Britain; Phase 1; University of Bristol (with IFF Research and GamCare) for GambleAware; 2021.

Gunstone, B. and Gosschalk, K. (2019) Women in Focus: A Secondary Data Analysis of the Gambling Treatment and Support Study, YouGov on behalf of GambleAware, London.