Onling gambling has increased significantly during the pandemic

“It’s boredom,” says former gambling addict Andy Gray. “The boredom and the people trying to make extra money when they find their income has dropped.”

The charity GambleAware has launched a new campaign of advertising in the local press, radio and internet to remind people of the support available to people with gambling problems.

In the first month of the first block in March last year, online virtual sports betting increased 88 percent and online poker 53 percent compared to the same month last year. Of course, none of this would be a problem betting, and a lot will simply be money that would otherwise have been spent on other forms of lockdown.

The Gordon Moody Association, a West Midland-based national charity that helps gambling addicts, reported that the number of contacts on their helpline more than tripled in May last year. The charity also reported an unprecedented waiting list of 20 people for their inpatient treatment program

Dominik Batthyany, psychotherapist and head of the Institute for Behavioral Addiction at Sigmund Freud University in Vienna, says that for some, gambling has become a coping mechanism.

“Many people have lost their jobs and are sitting at home without doing anything. Add fear or conflict to that and many will choose gambling as a way to deal with it, ”he says.

The new advertising campaign will remind people that the National Gambling Treatment Service is there to help anyone showing signs of addiction.

In addition to an increase in online gambling, research by GambleAware also found it even more important that people be aware of the support provided by the National Gambling Treatment with fewer appointments with mental health professionals and face-to-face meetings during the pandemic service.

The charity’s research also found that the West Midlands had one of the highest concentrations of people at “very high risk” of gambling damage.

GambleAware’s Zoe Osmond says, “So far the campaign has proven successful in encouraging people to turn to the National Gambling Treatment Service for assistance, but there is still a lot to be done.

“During the pandemic and this extremely difficult time for people, it is important that we continue to ensure that those in need understand what services are available to them. Therefore, we are taking this focused approach to these high risk areas to reach Great Britain. “

The ad campaign, titled: Begin To Regain Control, focuses on the all-consuming nature of gambling, including the line “When you are there but not there”. It is based on the idea that people with gambling problems feel separate from their family and friends and is based on promoting confidence that treatment will be readily available and will help them overcome their gambling problems.

The National Gambling Treatment Service works with the National Health Service to offer treatments by phone, online and in person to individuals and groups across the UK. It is provided by a network of NHS trusts and voluntary organizations, with most people getting help by using the 24-hour phone line.

Gray, 48, is now volunteering with several gambling treatment services.

Not to be confused with the two famous footballers of the same name, he now gives lectures in prisons, including those with inmates whose crimes can be traced back to gambling problems. He has also partnered with former Welsh goalkeeper Neville Southall to regularly offer question-and-answer sessions on Twitter.

Mr Gray of Cannock in Staffordshire says that while social distancing laws have influenced the way aid is provided, he stresses that it continues to be available to those who need it

He says the most important thing is to confide in someone as soon as it becomes a problem.

“Just talk to someone, talk to family members, or let them see your bank statements, or go to one of the treatment providers,” he says.

“It’s important that you do it as soon as possible,” he says. “It will be a huge relief to finally get it public.”

l To contact the National Gambling Treatment Service, call toll free 0808 8020 133 or visit begambleaware.org/ngts