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Record number of people seeking help for gambling problems

At least 10,000 more people sought help for gambling in 2023 compared to 2022

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Wednesday 31 January 2024 03:11 GMT
Men were found to be more prone to online gambling during lockdown than women
Men were found to be more prone to online gambling during lockdown than women (AFP via Getty Images)

A record number of people sought help for gambling problems through the national helpline last year, according to new figures.

Some 52,370 people called the National Gambling Helpline in 2023 looking for information, support and counselling a 24 per cent rise on 2022, when there were around 42,000 calls.

The news suggests a push by the NHS to tackle gambling harms may be paying off. The health service launched seven new specialist additional treatment clinics last year.

In October last year the government announced it would consider introducing a new levy on gambling companies of up to 1 per cent in a move it said would raise £100 million each year to fund research, prevention and the treatment of gambling addiction.

According to the latest figures from the national gambling helpline, run by GamCare, there was a sharp rise in calls during the festive period – a 39 per cent increase in calls throughout December 2023 compared with the same month the year before.

Helpline advisers said they noticed an increase in calls from people who had been concerned about someone else’s gambling throughout the festive period.

They also received numerous calls from addicts saying they struggled to watch television with their families due to the volume of gambling advertising.

The charity launched a service through the WhatsApp messenger app last year, and had thousands of interactions with gambling addicts and their loved ones using the messaging service.

Commenting on the figures, NHS England’s mental health director, Claire Murdoch, said: “Gambling addiction is a cruel mental health condition that can ruin people’s lives.

“The NHS is playing its part in treating it, with 12 gambling harms clinics currently open as part of our £2.3 billion investment into mental health services.

Figures show between April 2022 to March 2023 there were 1,389 referrals to NHS gambling clinics – up from 1,013 in 2021-22 and 785 in 2020-21.

GamCare said that almost 7,000 Gamban blocking software licences were registered for free through its TalkBanStop initiative.

Samantha Turton, head of remote support services at GamCare, said: “We are used to seeing small increases in the volume of people contacting us each year. However, in 2023 there has been a landmark climb in people reaching out who want to start their recovery journey from gambling.

“While it is concerning to see the rising numbers who need help, we are encouraged that advisers are reporting an increase in calls from people who are reaching out at an earlier stage.

Anna Hargrave, chief commissioning and strategy officer at GambleAware, added the increased number of calls comes after the launch of the National Gambling Support Network last year.

She said these services need to be prioritised within the new system once the statutory gambling levy is introduced.

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