A charity says it is preparing for a post-Euros spike in calls for help from gamblers struggling with the combination of lockdown and a summer of sport.
GamCare said the full impact of the Euros was still unknown, but it was preparing for an increase in requests for help over the coming months from gamblers already vulnerable following lockdown.
GamCare said its helpline advisers, who operate the National Gambling Helpline, have had to call the emergency services for people who had directly related their situation to the Euros.
More than half of the advisers had taken calls from at least one recovered gambler who relapsed during the Euros, with reports that people are going to more extreme lengths to gamble.
We urge anyone who is struggling with gambling to contact us, whether it’s their own or someone else’s gamblingAnna Hemmings, GamCare
Staff had heard from people who had used their children’s phones to avoid gambling blocks, changed their appearance to enter betting shops from which they had previously self-excluded and created accounts in their partner’s name to gamble online before a football match.
Advisers were also reporting hearing from people affected by someone else’s gambling, identifying emotional and financial abuse since the Euros started this summer.
The charity said it was concerned that the pandemic had accelerated an online gambling crisis.
Overall, in 2020-21 GamCare saw an 8% increase in calls to the National Gambling Helpline compared to the previous year.
The charity said 77% of gamblers contacting the helpline identified as male, while 84% of people who called the helpline over concerns about someone else’s gambling were women.
Two thirds (66%) of gamblers attending treatment reported having debt issues, while more than one in 10 reported alcohol misuse.
GamCare chief executive Anna Hemmings said: “We know that people who use our services find it difficult to enjoy live sport, especially football tournaments like the Euros, in their recovery.
“With so many sports events over the summer, coupled with the difficulties people have experienced in the pandemic, we’re concerned we may see a spike in helpline calls over the coming months.
“We urge anyone who is struggling with gambling to contact us, whether it’s their own or someone else’s gambling. We want you to know we are here for you, we understand and we can help you. If you think someone you know needs support, please get in touch.
“Our latest helpline and treatment data shows online gambling has increased over the pandemic and we will certainly be monitoring this trend to see if it continues as lockdown is lifted. This is important detail as the government continues with the review of the 2005 Gambling Act, working to bring about effective change to protect those who need it most.”