The number of women falling into debt through online gambling has risen sharply in the past year with smart phones fuelling the surge.
The RCA Trust, an addiction counselling charity, has logged a 15 per cent increase in the number of women getting into debt through internet poker and bingo.
The Trust says it has been contacted by more than 200 women, many of whom have debts running into the thousands.
But Andy Todd, counselling manager for the RCA Trust, said: “It is the tip of the iceberg – there will be a lot more women out there who are in the same situation and do not come to us, or any other organisations, for help.”
“The key is the accessibility – that people can log in 24-7 from their smart phone as well as from their computer,” said Todd.
His concerns were echoed by Yvonne MacDermid, chief executive of Money Advice Scotland, said: “There are a lot of people out there who are keeping their gambling problem underground.
“It is a lot more secretive when people are gambling on their own than in it is in real life if they go to the bingo hall with a few friends.”
And Richard Preen, a betting journalist, said: “The big push is smartphone technology now. The whole of the betting industry, including bingo, is trying to get their products working successfully on smart phones.”
The RCA Trust research was presented to a conference of debt experts organised by Money Advice Scotland last month.
Labour’s 2005 Gambling Act, which came into force in 2007, ushered in a comprehensive deregulation of gambling, including allowing advertising and online betting for the first time.
At the time of the Act, The Christian Institute and others warned the legislation would lead to an increase in problem gambling.
Last year, a GamCare study showed that 60,000 children between the ages of 12 and 15 in Britain were compulsive gamblers, largely due to online gambling.
The charity, which gives help, advice and treatment to problem gamblers, said the rate of adolescent addicts is over three times as high as adult addicts.