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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Packaging Operatives

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for two indivi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Estimator

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a major supplier of buil...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas