Problem gamblers; the importance of excluding them

GamCare reports rise in younger callers seeking help

For both moral and practical reasons, most online gambling operators are vigilant in excluding youthful or problem gamblers, yet determined young punters keep trying to gain access, often resorting to underhand methods to do so, but then crying foul when exposed.

This week the UK problem gambler charity Gamcare released statistics from its support centre, showing that in 2009/10, calls for help across all forms of gambling from 18-25-year-olds rose by a shocking 22 percent on the previous year.

However, Gamcare reveals that most callers and clients in counselling are male and gamble in [land] betting shops, with the rise overall in male callers gambling on the Internet just 4 percent, with no discernible increase in the number of problem punters citing gambling on the Internet.

GamCare also saw changes in the gambling behaviour reported by its female callers, with a more worrying 14 percent rise in female callers citing gambling on the Internet, and increases in female callers gambling on fruit and slot machines at 36 percent and bingo at 19 percent.

The charity’s national telephone and online helpline teams answered over 35 000 calls in 2009/10, including a 47 percent increase in callers to the NetLine, which is favoured by female and younger gamblers.

19 percent of troubled gamblers calling Gamcare in 2009/10 were referred for specialised counselling, with a further 12 percent – double last year’s numbers - advised to implement blocking software.

The overall increase in clients opting for counselling was 34 percent, but in the age group 18 to 25 years those requiring this option increased by 44 percent.

Gamcare’s numbers indicate that the prevalence of problem gambling amongst adolescents is three times higher than that amongst adults.

40 percent of UK clients aged 18-25 were gambling in [land] betting shops. The predominant gambling activities they gave were FOBTs (15 percent) and fruit/slot machines (14 percent).

No clients under 18 cited their problem as gambling on the Internet.

GamCare CEO Andy McLellan commented on the statistics, saying: “This is a serious wake-up call that we need to take seriously the wider accessibility of gambling and the real importance of education and wider awareness of responsible gambling, particularly for women and young people.

“We want anyone who needs our help to know that they can call us in complete confidence, on the phone or online, and that we are there to help, not to judge.

“We also want to do much more, targeted prevention work – very little is going on at present but as soon as the funds can be made available we are ready with our partners to launch new initiatives.

“We also need to look carefully at online gambling. In many ways, [internet gambling] operators have more opportunities online to help the player, for example by putting in place checks and controls which anyone can set themselves.

Anyone gambling online should look for the GamCare Certification logo, which shows that the operator – wherever they are operating from – has satisfied us that they have a reliable approach to player protection.”

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