The strains of this year have had an effect on the number of women seeking treatment for a gambling problem, as nearly a third of all calls to gambling charities now come from women.
Rob Mabbett, head of growth at gambling charity Gordon Moody Associates and based in Yorkshire, said there was a fall at the start of lockdown in the numbers of people contacting the charity but it rose considerably during the summer months, especially among women.
He said: “We saw quite a significant rise year-on-year in the amount of women reaching out for help.”
Last year, 30 per cent of helpline calls across three gambling charities came from women, with 59 per cent seeking help for another and 41 per cent seeking help for themselves. This equates to 9,000 women in the UK.
Kelly Field from Keighley became a gambling reform campaigner after losing £70,000 on online bingo and slot machine websites, including £10,500 in just six months.
She said it can be hard for women to come forward for help as gambling is seen as a men’s issue and it can be more of a taboo among women.
She said: “People are more shocked when it's a woman who has a gambling addiction.”
Since women tend to be the main carer of children and the “glue” that holds the family together, they may find it more difficult than men to seek treatment and find time for it, too, she said.
“Women deal with things differently and they have different roles and responsibilities in society.”
Ms Field thinks one of the reasons for the rise in the number of women affected is the increase in online bingo and slot machine sites that are aimed specifically at women.
She said: “One of the problems is that it’s sold as a leisure activity so people don’t know what they’re getting into.
“These games are designed to be addictive and they get celebrities to endorse them.
“Bingo is advertised on TV with fluffy, fun adverts when the reality is that I was spending eight hours a day looking at a screen, sometimes I wasn’t eating. It consumes your life. You miss coffees with friends, for example, and end up cutting yourself off.”
She said products aimed only at adults should not be advertised on TV during the day.
“They have no place on daytime TV. People wouldn’t be happy if it was drugs, alcohol or pornography, why is gambling an exception?”
She said companies use the data they have gained to better target people instead of using it to help prevent addiction and she believes the industry should be more accountable and should be subject to corporate manslaughter charges when a person dies by suicide as a result of gambling.
She said: “I lost £1,600 in one sitting on slots - that’s what triggered me to think about taking my own life.”
“There are far too many suicides. People don’t realise it’s not just about the loss of money, it’s about losing your home, family and friends. The money is nothing compared to that.”
Gordon Moody Association has announced it is opening a new clinic especially for women in 2021, which has seen a disproportionately large number of women from Yorkshire apply, with 10 per cent of the applications coming from the region.
The women will come from all backgrounds and undergo a treatment programme that recognises the wider issues surrounding the gambling.
While the clinic will be based in the Midlands, it is residential and will benefit women in Yorkshire.