An increase in Internet gambling during the coronavirus pandemic was followed by an increase in the number of players trying to prevent themselves from using online casinos and bookmakers.
Gamstop, the national self-exclusion scheme for people struggling with their game, saw a 21% increase in new exclusions during February, according to figures seen by The Guardian.
The number of people who have signed up is about to reach 200,000 people, including 326 new registrations on February 22, a one-day record since the service was launched in 2018.
Gamstop said increased efforts to avoid gambling appeared to have followed an increase in online betting volumes during the months of November and December.
He said this indicated that “the trend towards more online betting may lead to more vulnerable individuals choosing to be excluded from all sites.”
There may be more people than ever enrolled in the program, but Gamstop figures also show how difficult it is for many people to stay away from the game.
In January 2021, 49,328 people out of a total of 177,038 possible tried to bet and were stopped from registering on Gamstop, allowing people to shut out of the game on the Internet for a defined period.
The organization said this demonstrated that the blocking software was not a “silver bullet.”
“With the enrollment rate continuing to rise, I would urge anyone launching online self-exclusion through Gamstop to seek treatment as well,” said the organization’s executive director, Fiona Palmer.
“Awareness of self-exclusion programs and blocking software has been increasing over the past year, and it is important that we continue to spread the message about what help is available to those who need it most.”
Matt Blanks, project manager for Peer Aid, a plan that helps people addicted to gambling, began betting at 11 years old. He lost over £ 700,000 and tried to end his life.
He said being able to save himself from all the online operators at once had been a lifesaver. “It gives you the pause of that moment, that little space to breathe, to make sure that when you feel like it or impulses you can’t bet on that moment,” he said. “This time to reflect can make a difference.”
People with a gambling disorder are likely to be disproportionately male, but Gamstop has recorded a growing number of women registered during the closure.
The number of women who have self-excluded reached 50,000 recently and the gender divide is 71% male and 29% female. People between the ages of 18 and 34 are the most likely to use the service, accounting for 59% of all registrants.
The figures come after last week’s gathering of evidence for the government’s review of betting was completed. In its presentation, Gamstopsaid had increased the number of websites that posted links to black market betting transactions that are not subscribed to the blocking service.
Membership in the scheme is a condition of obtaining a license to offer betting legally in the UK.