GambleAware CEO urges gambling harm sufferers to ‘open up’

Speak up

GambleAware CEO Zoe Osmond has encouraged people to ‘open up and have that first conversation’ about problem gambling as soon as possible, after new data revealed many sufferers keeping their problems hidden.

The charity commissioned Ipsos to conduct a nationally representative online survey, which featured 4,207 British participants aged 18-75, of which 1,083 had experienced problems with their gambling based on experiences within the PGSI scale.

The research stated that as many as 64 per cent who have experienced any gambling problem have kept it secret, while 39 per cent who hadn’t shared their suffering didn’t do so because of feelings of stigma such as feeling ashamed or guilty (17 per cent), fear of judgement (13 per cent), or because they felt they could deal with the problem themselves (24 per cent).

Commenting on the survey, Osmond said: “It’s alarming to see the number of people who are struggling in isolation. As a hidden addiction, gambling harms can be incredibly hard to spot from the outside.

“It is therefore critical that people impacted are aware of the wide range of support services available, and that they feel safe to come forward. Anyone can be impacted by gambling harms, but the first step is to open up and have that first conversation, ideally as early as possible.”

GambleAware’s latest study has indicated that the majority of the public perceives certain gambling products like instant win games to be addictive. 

Ipsos’ research found that 71 per cent of respondents believe instant win games are very or fairly addictive, with 64 per cent for scratch cards and 62 per cent for casino games.

In a more positive response to the survey, 76 per cent of those who had opened up about their problem gambling stated that they felt better because of it. 

Providing a personal outlook on the subject of opening up, Elissa Hubbard, who has lived experience of gambling harms, explained: “Every day was full of anxiety – trying to keep my gambling a secret, whilst finding opportunities to do it more. People think you can ‘just stop’, but you can’t… it’s so easy to be dismissed, and I didn’t want anyone to think bad of me. Finding help changed everything. I discovered that by keeping quiet, it helps no one, and when you start to talk about it, people start to understand you.”

The campaign has been conducted in collaboration with the gambling harms experienced community, with support from ‘a range of expert and influential voices’. 

Stuart Andrew, the UK’s Gambling Minister, added: “Too often we see the devastating impacts of harmful gambling, and our white paper outlines a host of new measures we’re implementing to protect those most at risk. A key element of our plans is the introduction of a statutory levy on gambling companies to raise sufficient, sustainable and trusted funding for research, prevention and treatment of gambling-related harm. 

“Stigma is the biggest barrier preventing people from seeking help, and I welcome GambleAware’s vital campaign which is raising awareness of the issue and helping people get the support they need.”