The independent self-exclusion provider based in the UK, GAMSTOP, has revealed that more than 55,000 women have registered for self-exclusion from gambling sites.
Rise of number of women with gambling issues
The number of women experiencing gambling issues is growing at double the rate of men, according to fellow responsible gambling operator GamCare, but just 1 percent contact the National Gambling Helpline for assistance.
It is important to pass the 50,000 milestone in registrations, GAMSTOP argues, as it shows ‘that online gambling addiction, often regarded as being a male problem that is linked to sport, is having an increasing impact on women.’
CEO Fiona Palmer of GAMSTOP commented: “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.”
Unnecessary shame and stigma
Anna Hemmings, GamCare’s CEO, added: “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.”
Self-exclusion rates rise during lockdown
GAMSTOP statistics also indicate that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of lockdowns last year, the number of women who are self-excluded through service has increased.
In March 2020, 26 percent of all GAMSTOP registrars were women, but this figure had risen to over 31 percent by the end of the year .
In addition, from 19 percent in 2015/16 to almost 25 percent in the year to the end of March 2020, the National Gambling Treatment Program has seen a rise in the number of women seeking treatment. This coincides with rises of 57 percent to 69 percent in those with an online gambling problem.
Storm of triggers
Psychotherapist Liz Karter said: “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, an expert on problem gambling who herself has been in recovery from gambling addiction for over two years, also 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.”