Gambling is in many ways perceived as a predominantly male activity, the impact of which also affects how we identify, approach and support women affected by gambling. GamCare, the largest provider of support and treatment for gambling related harms across Great Britain, has released the first report from its pioneering Women’s Programme, to deliver outreach, education and awareness on the subject. The report defined ‘gambling activity’ as consumption of any UK licensed gambling product, which included bingo, online, lotteries, slots and sports book. The project has been funded by the so called ‘Tampon Tax’, a popular term used to call attention to the fact that feminine hygiene products are, unlike other products considered essential, subject to value added tax (VAT).
The report confirms that gambling harms are not gender specific and that women are by no means exempt. GamCare’s Women’s Voices survey showed:
- Women who gamble report significant financial losses, with many reporting losses in the tens of thousands.
- Shame and stigma are significant barriers for those identifying as female to engaging with support services.
- The universal issue reported was a detrimental impact on their mental health.
Gamblers identifying as female who were interviewed through the programme (a representative sample) reported feeling high levels of shame and stigma because of societal perceptions that gambling is a ‘male’ activity in which women should not, or do not, take part. Some reported an assumption that gambling could not be damaging to them or their families as they were not seen as financial ‘owners’ in the home. These perceptions contributed to low levels of seeking help, and higher levels of gambling harm.
“ My message to other women experiencing harms because of gambling, is that you’re not alone. It can happen to anyone, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help.”
In just the first year of delivering the programme, GamCare focused on barriers to women accessing help and in doing so worked with 300 organisations and more than 3,000 professionals to deliver their CPD accredited training – increasing the confidence of attendees to talk to women about gambling harms and support those affected. Through this programme they aim to use learning to increase the skills and experience of thousands of intermediaries who can go on to better identify women who need support for gambling related harms.
One woman who contacted GamCare, who did not wished to be named, shared the guilt and shame that her gambling impacted on her husband and children: “It’s really complex, the shame you feel – it’s like you’re letting everyone down. My message to other women experiencing harms because of gambling is that you’re not alone. It can happen to anyone, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help.”
Anna Hemmings, Chief Executive of GamCare, said: “The issues that women are facing are often hidden from support services. Our Women’s Programme has told us that we need to remove barriers for women to access help with gambling related harm, but we also need to ensure that those providing that support are better equipped to help them.”
“We must get to grips with the unnecessary shame and stigma women feel around asking for help. Gambling is not just a male activity, and it can affect women in significant, potentially life-changing ways.”
GamCare’s Women’s Programme, working with a nationwide network of organisations who support vulnerable women, is raising awareness of how gambling is linked with issues affecting women and helping to better identify women in need, engaging them with the right support before issues escalate.
GamCare will continue to strengthen referral pathways into support and treatment for women affected by gambling, as well as continuing to gather
lived experience from women across the UK and broadening the evidence-base for treatment that works.
The full report is available on the GamCare website: www.gamcare.org.uk