An increase in online gambling during the coronavirus pandemic was followed by an increase in the number of players trying to block themselves from using online casinos and bookmakers, it has emerged.
Gamstop, the national self-exclusion scheme for people who struggle with their gambling, 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 hit 200,000, including 326 new registrations on February 22, a record for a single day since the service launched in 2018.
Gamstop said that increased efforts to avoid gambling appeared to have followed an increase in online betting volumes during November and December.
He said this indicated that “the trend towards more online gambling may lead to the most vulnerable people choosing to exclude themselves from all sites.”
More people than ever may have signed up for the scheme, but the 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 possible 177,038 attempted to gamble and were prevented from doing so by registering with Gamstop, allowing people to exclude themselves from online gambling for a defined period.
The organization said this proved that blocking the software was not a “silver bullet”.
“As the rate of registrants continues to rise, I would urge anyone who practices self-exclusion from online gambling through Gamstop to seek treatment as well,” said the organization’s CEO, Fiona Palmer.
“Awareness of self-exclusion schemes and lockdown software has increased over the last year, and it is important that we continue to spread the word 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, started gambling at age 11. He lost more than £ 700,000 and tried to kill himself.
He said that being able to block himself from all online operators at once had been a lifesaver. “It gives you that moment of pause, that little bit of room to breathe, to make sure that when you have an impulse or an impulse, you can’t bet in that moment,” he said. “That time to reflect can make a difference.”
People with a gaming disorder are disproportionately likely to be men, but Gamstop has recorded an increasing number of women signing up during confinement.
The number of women who excluded themselves recently reached 50,000, and the gender breakdown is 71% men and 29% women. 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 the collection of evidence for the government’s review of the game ended last week. In its presentation, Gamstop said that there had been an increase in the number of websites posting links to black market gambling operations that are not subscribed to the blocking service.
Membership in the scheme is a condition of being licensed to legally offer gambling in Great Britain.