More than just a logo: How Gambling Therapy is providing global support to those most in need

As technology continues to advance, so does the accessibility to gambling services, and the potential for it to become more normalised within our day to day lives.

According to Paul Dent, Clinical Manager of Gambling Therapy at Gordon Moody Association, better technology can also be used to offer a wider support network to those afflicted by the issue of problem gambling.

He gave some insight into the biggest changes that the organisation has seen in its near-50 years of operation, and how supporting those most vulnerable to problem gambling would be a fitting legacy for Rev. Gordon Moody.

In 2021 the Gordon Moody Association (GMA) will mark fifty years of providing support to gamblers, friends, and family. It certainly has come a long way since the Rev. Gordon Moody established the first residential setting for therapeutic recovery in the UK. GMA has gone from strength to strength in the intervening period, now offering five distinct programmes. 

Gambling Therapy (GT) is the international online division and has been in operation for 12 years providing unique, authentic support to gamblers and affected others through a high quality multilingual helpline (upwards of 260 languages), a specifically designed App, groups, and forums. 

As with any organisation within the gambling industry, data modelling is seen as an essential component. Current trends are analysed to help respond to user habits and the impact of changes in regulation. The service has experienced incredible growth achieving 5.2m hitson the site (an increase of 11%) and 5,400 calls into the helpline, an increase of 127% on the previous year. In the last quarter, 83% of calls were meaningful (as opposed to operator account queries) again emphasising the value of this service during such a challenging time. 

A notable trend is the continued shift to mobile devices which now makes up around 80% of  traffic. As global outreach has grown, there has been a notable increase in  English (International) traffic, surpassing English (UK) calls for the first time, along with substantial growth in calls from Brazil, Russia and USA. 

Such increases, of course, bring their own set of problems. As was highlighted in research commissioned by GMA on fifteen years of applicants (Roberts et al. 2019) many see rehabilitation as the “last chance” and fall under the category of disordered gambler. Several studies including Roberts et al. (2017) indicate a high incidence of childhood maltreatment, trauma and abuse.

Moreover, this group demonstrates a high risk for suicidality  with 50% entering the residential programme having made at least one attempt. Wardle et al. (2020) found that 19.2% of disordered gamblers reported suicide attempts in the past year compared to 4.4% of the general population. 

Similar data is seen on the helpline with GT with suicide ideation mentioned in 14% of the meaningful calls received. Just as with GMA, many see it as a last resort, having exhausted all avenues with gambling operators, borrowed money from various friends and family and very much have the sense of the “wolves closing in”.  

It is usually only at this point that gamblers begin to realise the devastation they have caused. Research shows that between 9 and 15 friends and family are affected to a greater or lesser degree by the addiction of a disordered gambler. Suicide sometimes seems the easier route than confront the emotional and financial damage that has been caused. 

Dealing with such calls can be just as traumatic as the advisor equally is left with no closure, particularly if the call is dropped. The palpable sense of “could I have done more?” is always there despite the constant reinforcement that suicide is a choice. This can be hard to distinguish when the call arrives at 2am after operating in different languages with no support services available in the caller’s country of origin. 

Accordingly, only the most experienced staff operate at these times and great care has been taken to develop procedures and good practice in this area. Staff are never left isolated, with clinical supervisors always on hand if advisors need support. Regular clinical supervision is provided for all the advisors with the ability to reflect on cases, within 24 hours if necessary. A novel online group supervision has also been developed using real case studies which will be presented at EASG 2021. 

Effective training and support are always problematic for many organisations interacting with their clients, especially those operating call centres. A pilot project has already been completed with a leading operator looking at how clinical skills and knowledge can be shared.

In light of this, GT are now looking to further improve their multilingual support and develop functionality to meet the perfect storm of boredom, financial constraint and isolation created by Covid-19. This will be a challenge for the whole industry as many companies now operate without boundaries. This comes with a responsibility to all those who engage in gambling. 

We recognise that disordered gamblers have different characteristics in Brazil or Colombia and that regulation varies. GT wants to be part of the global conversation as to how and when to effectively intervene. 

GT will launch a new website in September operating from 6am until 2am (GMT) enabling us to provide support to those in need. We are then looking to move quickly to a 24/7 support service to reflect the global nature of the industry and shift in the client base, particularly towards Central and South America. 

We cannot do this in isolation and will therefore be working in collaboration with the gambling and addiction sector to create a support system that can help those most in need where they want it. In the fiftieth year of GMA, this would be quite a legacy for the Rev. Gordon Moody.

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