In a revealing insight into the world of online gambling, data from GamCare, a UK-based organization offering support for problem gamblers, shows that three out of five individuals seeking assistance in the past year pinpointed online slots as a primary source of their gambling-related worries.
The data, extracted from GamCare’s National Gambling Helpline, underscores the enduring dominance of online slots as the most frequently cited activity among those seeking help for problem gambling behaviors. In the period spanning 2022-2023, a substantial 60% of individuals who reached out to the helpline identified slots as a major cause for concern. This marked a slight uptick from the previous year and nearly doubles the 34% figure recorded in 2018-2019.
The dataset was derived from a pool of 5,660 individuals who contacted the helpline during the 2022-2023 period and disclosed the specific type of gambling activity causing distress. Notably, a staggering 73% of these cases were related to online gambling issues.
The government is actively exploring measures to address this concerning trend. As part of its review of the Gambling Act 2005, it is considering the introduction of maximum stake limits for online slots. In July, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport solicited evidence ahead of a deadline set for October 4, 2023. Among the proposals being contemplated are stake limits ranging from £2 to £15 per spin, along with slot-specific safeguards designed to enhance player protections.
Colin Walsh, Lived Experience Manager at GamCare, highlighted a prevalent misconception, stating, “There is still a perception that gambling harm predominantly comes from betting on horses or sports events. In the past five years, we have broadly seen a trend where people often start gambling on these activities but eventually transition into other areas of online gambling, where it can be easy to lose sight of how much time and money is being spent.”
While the popularity of online slots remains a glaring concern, the data reveals shifting patterns in problem gambling behaviors. Notably, the number of online gamblers seeking help for sports betting-related issues has remained steady at 20%, compared to 34% in 2018-2019. Meanwhile, the category labeled ‘other casino games’ has emerged as the third most significant concern at 15%, slightly up from the previous year but significantly down from the 39% recorded four years earlier.
Walsh acknowledged the evolving landscape, stating, “The data highlights that it is now disproportionately online slots that are the main challenge for many people who call the National Gambling Helpline. I know from my own experience – and the experiences of those in my network – how difficult this form of gambling can be and how isolating it can feel if you find yourself caught in a negative cycle. But I also know that it is possible to get through it and that there is free help for anyone struggling with it.”
As the gambling landscape continues to evolve, these insights serve as a stark reminder of the need for comprehensive measures to address problem gambling and protect vulnerable individuals in the digital age.
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