Self-exclusive service Gamstop has reported a record number of sign-ups in the first two months of 2021 amid an uptake in online gambling during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to The Guardian, Gamstop recorded an increase of 21% in the number of people self-excluding from gambling websites in February 2021, and the total number of people who have signed up with the service is nearing 200,000.
There were 326 new registrations on February 22nd alone, a record number for a single day for the service since its 2018 launch.
Gamstop has told The Guardian that the increase in people self-excluding from gambling websites follows on from a period of increased online gambling between November and December 2020, with Gamstop stating: “The trend towards more online gambling may be leading to more vulnerable individuals choosing to exclude themselves from all sites.”
According to Gamstop’s figures, 49,328 people of out the 177,038 registered with Gamstop attempted to gamble in January 2021 but were prevented from doing so by the self-exclusion service.
While the majority of people suffering from gambling harm are male, Gamstop has recorded an increase in the number of women registering with the service, with numbers recently passing 50,000.
Gamstop has also found that of its registered users, the gender split is 71% male and 29% female, and that 59% of all its registered users are aged between 18 and 34.
While an increase in the number of people using the self-exclusion service is good, Gamstop has urged its users to also seek treatment.
Fiona Palmer, the Gamstop Chief Executive, said in a statement: “With the rate of registrants continuing to rise, I would urge anybody putting self-exclusion from online gambling in place through Gamstop to also seek treatment.
“Awareness around self-exclusion schemes and blocking software has been increasing throughout the last year, and it’s important that we continue to spread the message about what help is available to those who need it most.”
Matt Banks, a project manager at Peer Aid and former gambler, said that the ability to block himself from all gambling sites via Gamstop has been a lifesaver, adding: “It gives you that moment’s pause, that bit of breathing space, to ensure that when you have an urge or impulse, you can’t place a bet in that moment. That time to reflect can make all the difference.”
The news comes shortly after the UK Government ended its evidence submission period for its review of the Gambling Act 2005. Gamstop’s submission highlighted an alleged increase in the number of websites publishing links to black-market betting operators that are not partnered with the self-exclusion service.
Over the last several months, there has been a debate amongst the gambling industry over the danger of the illegal online gambling black market. Operators and the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) have warned of the black market, which lacks the protections all UK-based websites do. However, the warnings were deemed “exaggerated” by the Gambling Commission.
Irish charity Gambling Awareness Trust has criticised the country’s problem gambling services after commissioning a report titled ‘Gambling Trends, Harms And Responses: Ireland In An International Context‘.
The report, conducted in late 2019 by an academic research team at Maynooth University’s Department of Sociology and Maynooth Social Sciences Institute (MUSSI), was carried out over a year to examine the knowledge base and evidence over gambling’s impact in Ireland and how it compares internationally.
According to The Journal, Gambling Awareness Trust’s report found that the support and treatment for people suffering from gambling harm lag behind other countries in Europe, and it found that there are an estimated 55,000 problem gamblers in Ireland that do not currently have access to treatment from the country’s Health Service Executive.
The report found that there are regional discrepancies that make it difficult for gamblers to access treatment and support services in their areas. It also found that private services do exist in Ireland, but researchers noted that they “are expensive”.
The report highlighted how not enough is being done in Ireland to identify problem gamblers and that most problem gamblers are reluctant to open up about their problematic behaviour. It reads: “Screening for gambling addiction is virtually non-existent and makes it difficult to interdict those at risk of developing significant problems with harmful gambling.
“Gamblers are often reluctant to raise addiction problems with their GPs, and when GPs do identify patients with gambling disorder, there is no dedicated treatment pathway, forcing patients to rely on a poorly resourced public ‘omnibus’ service that lumps in gambling disorder with alcohol and drug problems.”
In its report, researchers concluded that Ireland’s gambling treatment and support system is “not fit for purpose” when compared to the increase in people experiencing gambling-related harm.
In a statement commenting on the report, Gambling Awareness Trust CEO Pam Bergin said: “We get a bad rap because we’re funded by the industry. The industry has nothing to do with our day-to-day operations. We commissioned this report to try to add the literature there is on the scale of gambling harm in this country.
“Nothing in it really blew us away. But it is fairly stark that there’s such a huge problem in this country that’s not being tackled head on. We’re so far behind in terms of regulation that something has to be done. But I’m fairly confident now that Minister Browne will bring in a regulator.”
She later added: “All our peer countries in the EU have some form of support for this. In the UK recently, a number of NHS gambling clinics have opened up in the likes of London and cities in the north of England.
“Apparently, it’s working really well. It’s free and it’s a specific service in this area. Something like that would be excellent here. In Ireland, it’d be important we get that geographic spread because the problem is everywhere.”
The release of the report comes as Ireland is expected to create a new gambling regulator this year following the implementation of the Gambling and Lotteries Act 2019.