National Gambling Helpline calls reach record high in 2023

By Robert Fletcher

GamCare has revealed the National Gambling Helpline received a record number of calls and online chats in 2023.

In total, 52,370 calls and online chats were made to the National Gambling Helpline over the past 12 months. This was 24% higher than the previous year and follows another record in the year to March 2023.

August 2023 proved to be the most active month on record while contact in December was 39% higher than 2022. GamCare also noted that the Christmas period was the busiest since the helpline launched.

The increase comes after the launch of a new WhatsApp channel for the helpline in February 2023. GamCare reported an additional 6,000 interactions via WhatsApp during the year.

Other key stats from 2023 include almost 7,000 Gamban blocking software licences being registered for free through TalkBanStop. This partnership between GamCare, Gamban and Gamstop offers free tools and support to help people control their gambling online.

In addition, in 117 of calls and chats, people said their gambling related to financial pressure from the cost-of-living crisis.

GamCare: Record helpline calls a “landmark” climb

“We are used to seeing small increases in the volume of people contacting us each year,” GamCare head of remote support services, Samantha Turnton, said. “However, in 2023 there has been a landmark climb in people reaching out who want to start their recovery journey from gambling. 

“While it is concerning to see the rising numbers who need help, we are encouraged that advisors are reporting an increase in calls from people who are reaching out at an earlier stage. 

“This is an invaluable step to prevent gambling harm from escalating further down the line and we encourage anyone to get in touch if they feel ready to discuss their relationship with it, no matter what stage they are at.”

GambleAware chief commissioning and strategy officer Anna Hargrave also spoke about the importance of the helpline. GambleAware last year committed to another three years of funding for the helpline.

“The increased number of calls to the helpline comes after the launch of the National Gambling Support Network last year and clearly demonstrates the need for and importance of prevention and early intervention support services,” Hargrave said.

“These support services need to be prioritised within the new system once the statutory gambling levy is introduced, as we know that swift intervention is essential to help people in the early stages of experiencing gambling harm, before it becomes even more serious.” 

Gamstop registrations also reach new high

Record contacts with the helpline come as Gamstop, the national self-exclusion scheme for Great Britain, also reported a 9.5% increase in new registrations for 2023. These reached an all-time high of 92,000 during the past year.

Of those who have registered, 55% opted for a five-year exclusion from gambling, the longest time frame available through Gamstop. Other exclusion periods include six months and one year.

However, there is some reason for concern for the team at Gamstop. Recent data from Yield Sec shows a rise in illegal gambling operators targeting self-excluded players on Gamstop. 

Some 231 illegal operators have been identified in the UK. These now account for 4% of the country’s total online gambling market share and gross gaming revenue. In addition, it was revealed that more than 1,000 affiliates helped promote and publicise these sites.  

Yield Sec also found thousands of Google searches bidding to aid the avoidance of self-exclusion. By January 2024, Yield Sec detected millions of “not on Gamstop” and other similar Google search results. This allows vulnerable gamblers to bypass self-exclusion strategies with legal operators.

“The evidence of illicit gambling options that seek to cynically work around and enable vulnerable problem gamblers to avoid Gamstop self-exclusion is distressing and demands immediate and meaningful intervention,” Yield Sec founder and CEO Ismail Vali said.

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