The online gambling industry is under fire for ‘bombarding’ recovering gambling addicts with adverts during the lockdown.
Last month, Britain’s largest betting firms promised to end all television and radio gambling advertising for six weeks, but this pledge did not include online promotions.
Recovering addict Kelly said: “These adverts have been forced down people’s throats for too long, without any signposting for where to get help”.
Kelly racked up £70,000 in debt from gambling and she developed suicidal thoughts. She said: “I was in a dark, gloomy place… There was no light at the end of the tunnel.”
Now during the lockdown, Kelly says that betting adverts seem to be “flashing up all day, every day. Maybe I notice them now because we’re indoors more, but it feels like the gambling industry’s really trying to coin in on the lockdown.”
She added: “I don’t want to go down that rabbit’s hole again – but you cross that invisible line very quickly.”
Fellow recovering addict Tony agreed, saying: “In my eyes, I will always be an addict”.
He continued: “I am seconds away from a bet and from destroying my life again, so I can never be complacent.
I can never be complacent
“This period is a very testing time, so it would be very easy to fall back on what our brains tell us are feel-good factors. Without any limits set, you’re prey for the industry.”
Gordon Moody Association, a charity which helps problem gamblers, reported that it has received record numbers of calls during the coronavirus pandemic.
Chief Executive Matthew Hickey said: “Usually we have around 50 interactions a day; we’re now getting about 170 a day. And for our residential support programme, we’ve got a growing waiting list of more than 20 people, which we’ve never had before”.
He continued: “At the moment, with the suspension of live sports events, we’ve seen a migration towards casino games, which are particularly popular among women”.
“They’re very easy to access – but they’re also highly addictive”, he added.
Last month, the betting industry was criticised for using “predatory” tactics to tempt back former gambling addicts during the lockdown.
Firms had been offering welcome bonuses of up to £1,500 via social media, and Gamblers Anonymous reported that a number of ex-addicts have received emails from companies “trying to lure them back, with offers of free bets”.