Women hooked on online betting up from 44 per cent

Spiralling numbers seek help for addiction as internet poker blamed for endangering families

Online gambling is becoming more attractive to women than drugs or alcohol, according to the UK's leading female addiction specialist. Liz Karter has warned that work stress is a major cause of gambling addiction for women who are frequently turning to online poker at home rather than winding down with drinks in a wine bar.

At its most extreme, women in the grip of a gambling addiction who have lost huge sums of money are stealing to feed their families or are on the verge of losing their children, she warns.

"Instead of going out drinking, women are coming home from work and switching on the PC. Many are in demanding careers and want to be able to escape at the end of the day while remaining in control in a way they would not be after drinking or taking drugs. Then they can return to the real world and at first there are no side effects – only later do the problems really start when the habit sets in."

Experts say that spiralling numbers of women are admitting to gambling problems in the wake of the explosion of online gambling. GamCare, the industry-funded organisation, said it received more than 54,000 calls last year – up almost 4,000 on the previous 12 months.

Half of all women callers to their helplines had problems with internet gambling compared to a third of men, up from 44 per cent on 2011 figures. The Gambling Commission regulator's latest omnibus survey in January also showed that 55 per cent of women questioned admitted to having gambled in the previous month.

Ms Karter, whose new book Women and Problem Gambling was published last week, has worked as an addiction therapist since 2001. Female gambling addiction is frequently misunderstood, she argues. Women coming through her door are just as likely to be professional as they are from deprived backgrounds.

"They know they cannot go into work with a hangover the next day so they see gambling online as a safer option," she said.

She says the women addicted to gambling whom she helps are from across the social divide and are often from backgrounds where they have suffered domestic abuse or damaging relationships.

Almost three-quarters of her clients are single parents or living alone. The explosion of online gambling advertising, allowed following the 2005 Gambling Act, has also had a huge, negative effect on patient recovery, according to Ms Karter.

"Historically, women have been more inclined to be machine players, like the traditional slots. I'm now seeing a crossover to online gambling which is a particular problem because now accessibility is so easy via smartphones or tablets.

"Clients tell me they feel as if they have only been online for 20 minutes when in fact it runs into hours and hours."

Ms Karter, who works with all the leading UK problem gambling treatment centres and runs the Level Ground Therapy centre in London, says gambling advertising is making life harder for recovering addicts.

"It's perhaps unfair to say whether gambling advertising lures women in, but my clients tell me they feel they can't escape it when they are in the recovery phase. There are so many reminders everywhere. It's like trying to get over a relationship and seeing pictures of your ex-partner all over the TV, the newspapers and the internet. It makes recovery very difficult."

Ms Karter, who is also a member of Community Action for Responsible Gambling, is critical of the marketing tactics of major gambling operators. She says she is aware of underhand tactics from major gambling operators attempting to lure addicts back to their websites.

"Many contact the companies to ask to be banned from gambling, which they are. Then they receive an email a week or two later from a subsidiary website offering them free cash saying, 'We miss you'. Would your local pub offer you free whisky to feel better two weeks into a drying-out period?"

The UK's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington, recently said in a report that online gaming was changing people's view of who they are and threatening community cohesiveness.

"I think he is right," said Ms Karter. "We will be spending more and more time online in the future, and the growth of online gambling addiction will continue. It's a very bleak outlook."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Part Time

£10500 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Part Time Accounts Assistant ...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company supply, install an...

Tradewind Recruitment: Reception Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: An excellent three form entry scho...

The Green Recruitment Company: Commercial Construction Manager

£65000 Per Annum bonus & benefits package: The Green Recruitment Company: The ...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'