DDN March 2022 March 2022 | Page 7

‘ We conducted a rapid evidence assessment which found that much of the academic research on gambling has long focused on men , or assumes that only men may develop problems with gambling .'
aimed specifically at women earlier this year .
‘ Gambling behaviours manifest themselves differently in women than men ,’ said gambling addiction counsellor Liz Karter . ‘ For example , we know the easy availability of online gambling leads many women to games which appear innocent and socially acceptable . The games seem safe and familiar , as they are so similar to the free
play digital games we are all now used to playing . In addition , the hopes of financial gains can prove a powerful motivator . While gambling doesn ’ t always lead to harm , it ’ s vital women are aware of early warning signs including losing track of time , incurring increasing debt , or a tendency to hide gambling from others or gambling to forget their problems .’
As almost all literature on gambling harms has so far focused on men , GambleAware has commissioned IFF Research , the University of Bristol and GamCare ’ s Women ’ s Programme to carry out a threephase research project , Building knowledge of women ’ s lived experience of gambling and gambling harms across Great Britain , which will run until the end of this year . The project will explore why women take part in different types of gambling , the effect on their lives , and their experiences of treatment and support .
‘ We conducted a rapid evidence assessment which found that much of the academic research on
gambling has long focused on men , or assumes that only men may develop problems with gambling ,’ said Prof Maria Fannin of the University of Bristol . ‘ This is starting to change as we learn more from women themselves and their experiences . We want to
know more about how gambling becomes part of women ’ s lives and how their experiences may differ from men ’ s . Ultimately , we want our work to change the public perception and awareness of who can develop problems with gambling and ensure women ’ s needs and concerns are taken into account .’ DDN
John Muggenborg / Alamy
But I spent a lot more than that overall .
You sort of know you ’ ve got a problem , but you think “ I ’ ll win the jackpot and pay it back and I ’ ll be alright .” You have these delusional thoughts of “ everyone ’ s a winner ”, because that ’ s how it ’ s portrayed . A lot of people assume it ’ s just a financial issue but it ’ s not just money you lose – it ’ s self-worth , self-esteem , selfconfidence . My mental health was at rock bottom and I put on loads of weight because I just isolated myself in the house playing these games . My son didn ’ t get the things he wanted , we didn ’ t go on holiday . There were times when we had £ 20 a week to live on . You lose more than money .
People have this stigma and embarrassment , and they ’ re not telling anybody . They ’ ve got all this debt and can ’ t tell people how they got it and it causes people to take their own lives ,
because they ’ d have to admit they ’ ve got a gambling addiction . I became suicidal – you get in such a dark place with it and it just consumes your whole life . It takes over and you think the only way out is to end your life , because then it ’ ll stop .
At the time there were very few support services . There was basically only Gamblers Anonymous , but I ’ d never have gone to that as a woman because it ’ s a completely male-dominated environment . The lived experience people who work for the services and charities now are still predominantly men , so when they go into schools and colleges speaking to young people it just reinforces that message that it ’ s still a male-dominated addiction . But you can see how women are targeted in the daytime with the pink and fluffy bingo adverts and then in the evening it ’ s all casinos and football – they know exactly
what they ’ re doing . Every other advert is a gambling advert , and they ’ re using celebrities to endorse it . You couldn ’ t put adverts for pornography on TV because there ’ d be uproar , but the gambling advertising on TV and social media normalises it for young people – these are adult products .
The point I knew I needed treatment was when I ’ d maxed out all the credit cards but I managed to get a £ 1,600 overdraft on our joint account , and within 50 minutes I ’ d spent all of it on slots online . I was devastated and disgusted and ashamed , and I had to ring my partner and tell him I ’ d done it again after promising to stop so many times . I just snapped the card up and started cutting at my wrists . The GP gave me pills and got me a counselling appointment but the counsellor didn ’ t turn up the first time so I never went
back . I carried on gambling for about another 18 months before I found a local service and got a 12-week talking therapy .
I ’ ve tried to turn a negative into a positive and I ’ ve campaigned to get credit cards banned for gambling and to raise awareness of gambling addiction , particularly with women . I relapsed once early on but I ’ ve got [ blocking software ] Gamban on my phone and I stay away from all forms of gambling . It would be like an alcoholic saying they ’ ll just have one drink – it would soon be a bottle of vodka . In some ways gambling addiction is easier to hide than with drugs or alcohol , because there ’ s no substance . You can be in all this debt and about to lose your family and your home but you can put a smile on your face and no one will know . But we have far , far too many suicides that are directly linked to gambling addiction .
Kelly Field , as told to DDN