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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions