Sharp increase in women gamblers seeking help
When Katie Clarke found herself £25,000 ($31,667) in debt from a gambling addiction, she struggled to find the help and support she needed.
To tackle the stigma associated with female gambling debt, she built her own support network, after turning to social media for help.
Katie’s story is becoming more common. The UK charity GamCare, which offers support for problem gamblers and addicts, has released statistics showing that the number of women seeking help via has risen sharply. Over the last five years, the number has almost doubled, from 2,439 in 2014 to 4,129 in 2018.
Last year also marked the turning point for Katie. She began documenting her journey on YouTube and Twitter and used the publicity generated to campaign for more help and support to be available for women in particular. She told the Evening Standard, “I’ve been amazed at people’s reaction, with so many people telling me how good it is to hear a female voice speak about these issues, and with women contacting me to ask where they can go for help.
“I wanted to put myself out there, be brutally honest and just say to the world: It’s OK to be a woman who gambles, it’s OK to admit when that gambling becomes a problem, and it’s OK to ask for help.”
The gambling of the sexes
Part of the problem seems to be the differences in gambling preferences between men and women.
Ian Semel, CEO of Breakeven, believes that women are more susceptible to online and slot machine games, whereas for men the draw of big-money payouts in the sports sector is more appealing. He said, “The big thing that shouts out to me is that men seem to be chasing the money, whereas women are chasing the buzz or the feeling it gives them. With women there often seems to be emotional anguish behind their problem – it often seems to be a form of escapism for them.”
Katie, who works for a removals company, agreed with that. “When you’re gambling you’re escaping from things in your life, pains you haven’t dealt with,” she said. Over the course of six years, she thinks that she racked up over 50 payday loans alongside six phone contracts before she got her gambling under control.
Female gambling in the public eye
There is more emphasis on female gambling in the public eye at the moment. Earlier this spring, ITV completed a successful series called “Cleaning Up,” based on a true story of a gambling female cleaner who would stop at nothing for her next spin.
In response, GambleAware recently announced another £3.9m ($4.9m) to expand its treatment program. Meanwhile, industry leaders have agreed that more should be done to tackle gambling addiction for both women and men.