IIt was Christmas Day 2018 when things came to a head for Bev. By her own admission, it had been “a lovely day.” “Everything went perfectly,” she says. “There was no reason why I should have bet, but in my head, in a player’s head, it was Christmas Day, so I couldn’t lose. I told myself they wouldn’t do that to you on Christmas Day.”
Within 90 minutes, the 59-year-old from Newcastle had bet £5,000. “I emptied my husband’s bank account,” he says. the independent. “I even borrowed money from my daughter claiming that she had an urgent bill that she needed to pay. I lost everything, and then I overdosed.”
The UK is home to one of the world’s largest gambling markets, generating £14.2bn in revenue in 2020. Gambling has historically been classified as a largely male problem, but research A GambleAware issue from January this year revealed that the number of women treated for gambling has doubled in five years, with up to one million women at risk of experiencing gambling-related problems. He added that this figure may represent only a small proportion of women who experience gambling-related harm.
Bev’s gambling problems started about 16 years ago. “I entered a competition on a popular television website and a gambling pop-up came up and I thought, ‘I’ll try that,’” he said. Before this, he had never gambled: “It just wasn’t something that interested me. It was like throwing money away.”
After depositing £10, he quickly won £800. “I couldn’t believe the money was mine,” she says. “Then I started depositing more and more and that £800 used up very quickly. After that, I was hooked.”
An early victory was also “the hook” that brought Stacey, 29, from Derbyshire back for more at the start of her gambling addiction. Her poison was slot machines and scratch cards. “It’s fast and completely stunning to watch the wheels turning,” she says.
The game’s numbing effect is a major draw for many women gamers, experts say. Liz Karter MBE, a leading UK therapist for gambling addiction among women, says the forgetfulness that gambling offers can provide a space away from the stress of everyday life. “Rarely will you hear women talk about loving the buzz or the thrill of gambling, or loving the prestige that winning brings them like so many men do,” she says. the independent.
“For women, gambling is losing themselves in an experience in which they ultimately think and feel nothing. Complete focus on gambling is a distraction from stressful thoughts and feelings. It is an escape from overwhelming responsibilities and anxieties.”
It’s a familiar story for Tracey, 58, from Berkshire. “My game was never about money,” she says. “It was to fill a void. When I played, I didn’t worry about anything… the game took me out of my reality.”
For Bev, things had started to fall apart long before that fateful Christmas and deteriorated over the years. As the person in charge of the household finances, he had easy access to money but, unbeknownst to his loved ones, he had maxed out all his credit cards and taken out loans to pay them off, which went directly into his trust fund. match. He also borrowed money from friends, family, and even people at work. “I lied to everyone I met,” he said. “I was in a terrible place mentally.
“My husband and I have good salaries and I often waited until midnight on payday when the money came into my account each month. My husband was asleep in bed and within a couple of hours he had ruined everything.”
All of the women spoke about the “ease” of online gambling and its 24-hour availability. Tracey describes the Internet as “the crack cocaine of gambling.” She says: “When I started gambling, places opened and closed. I could have been first in and last out, but there was still a closing time.”
Before moving online, Stacey had been traveling between different bookmakers in an effort to avoid drawing attention to her gambling problem. However, online, things were very different. “It was so easy. No one knew what she was doing.”
Karter makes a direct link between the rise of gambling among women and its growing ubiquity. “We have gambling in our homes, offices and wallets,” she says. “However, we have to look at any addiction within a mental health and social context. We see an increase in stress, depression and anxiety in women and this leads to self-medication through gaming… it seems too easy to get lost in the virtual world of online gaming.”
The three women found the support they needed through a women-only residential retreat with grumpy gordon, part of a network of organizations within the National Gambling Treatment Service that offer a range of treatment. “I went in there a broken woman, but I left feeling like there was hope,” says Bev. “They equipped us with the tools and strategies to stop you in the moment before you place a bet. It is brilliant. Something just clicked and it worked.”
Stacey admits she was initially “hugely skeptical” that the service could help her, but describes it as “the best thing I’ve ever done.”
While all three women describe themselves as on the mend from the game, some of the fallout is harder to put behind them.
“Payday loans, credit cards — my debt was huge,” says Stacey. “I was moving from house to house and living with friends because I couldn’t get anywhere with my bad credit. It’s long-term game damage that I’m still working on – it’s going to be a long time before I can get a house.”
Bev would like to see major reforms in the gaming industry. “One of the worst things that happened when I was trying to stop gambling was when companies would message you as a ‘VIP customer’ and say, ‘We haven’t seen you for a long time, here’s £200 in your account.’ . That was so bad.
“I also think they should check new account holders, like when you apply for a loan,” he adds. “The number of times I’ve deposited thousands of pounds in a very short period of time…they must have realized I had a problem, but they encouraged it even more.”
A government white paper address these issues a long time ago and is expected to be released this month. Carolyn Harris MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harms, has called the need for affordability checks, spending limits and independent assessments on new users “overwhelming”.
Stacey, Bev and Tracey want more people to understand that this is a devastating affliction that can and does affect women, but help is available.
“It’s very important to reach out and talk to someone,” says Tracey. “No matter where you come from or your age, you will never be alone.”
Stacy agrees. “I don’t want anyone to feel as alone as I do. If you can get past the embarrassment, there are so many places to go that specifically help women where you won’t be judged. Taking that first step is scary, but it’s so worth it. There is hope.”
For information, support and advice on problem gambling, please contact:
Gordon Moody (gordonmoody.org.uk), conscious bet (begambleaware.org), Gamblers Anonymous, which hosts a series of “women’s favorite” meetups online and in real life (gamblersanonymous.org.uk), BetSaberMás (betknowmoreuk.org) and GamCare (www.gamcare.org.uk).