New research commissioned by GambleAware has highlighted a ‘concerning lack of awareness and use’ of problem gambling support services.
The study, which forms part of the charity’s ongoing ‘Treatment Needs and Gap Analysis’ work to better understand the demand, need and awareness of help and support, explores the impact of the first few months of lockdown up until May on gambling behaviour and harm across Great Britain.
Published by YouGov, the research found that 5% of gamblers had accessed safer gambling tools during the early months of the lockdown, while 63% of those considered to be problem gamblers reporting usage during the same timeframe.
The reported usage of treatment, advice and support in the last 12 months to help manage gambling remained largely unchanged with 16% reporting doing so in May 2020 compared to 17% October 2019.
Sian Griffiths, deputy chair of GambleAware, explained: “The findings published today show there is a concerning lack of awareness and use of the gambling treatment and services which exist to provide support and care.
“While gambling rates seem not to have increased during lockdown, it is alarming that gambling participation amongst those who are gambling are increasing amongst the most vulnerable groups.
“With more restrictive measures being put into place across the country to control the COVID-19 pandemic, it is absolutely essential that the government, National Health Services, and charities across Great Britain continue to work together in partnership to promote and improve awareness of the online and telephone services available for gambling treatment, such as the National Gambling Treatment Service and the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133.”
In addition, a series of barriers were identified when it comes to accessing treatment, including a lack of awareness of online professional support available for gambling harms, the stigma attached to problem gambling, a reduction in number of appointments available with a mental health professional due to COVID-19, and no face-to-face options during lockdown.
Of those surveyed, one in five problem gamblers reported that they had gambled more during the lockdown period, of which 52% cited ‘relieving boredom or for something to do’ as the reason for doing so.
‘Not having a desire to gamble’ was among the most common reasons listed by those who gambled less during the lockdown.
Overall, 52% of gamblers said that they gambled about the same amount during early lockdown from March to May as they would normally, whilst 41% reported a drop in their gambling activities – compared to 4% who documented an increase.