National Gambling Helpline Is Now Open 24-Hours A Day
The decision took place on the 1st of October, meaning that people in need of support to stop gambling or at the very least to cut back in how much gambling they’re doing will now have access to the service whenever they feel that they need it.
There’s a freephone number that people can call (0808 8020 133) as well as a live chat function, putting callers through to advisers that have been trained to deal with gamblers in need of help. As well as helping them by offering advice on their gambling-related issues, the call handlers are also able to put people in contact with their local treatment services.
This means that it’s not just about getting help over the phone but also courtesy of physical contact with people, which can be an important part of the process of stopping gambling in the same way that alcoholics anonymous works to help people with a drinking problem by offering meetings.
Is There A Need For It?
The first question that you might ask is about whether or not there’s really a need for it. After all, bookmakers are only open during typical shop hours and there surely can’t be that many people needing help with their gambling at three in the morning.
However, GamCare has said that more than 30,000 people called up the helpline during the period from 2018 to 2019, with the proliferation of online gambling and casinos open until the early hours meaning that people are able to gambling pretty much whenever they want to.
On top of that, GamCare expect the number of calls that the helpline will have to field will increase year-on-year as more and more people begin having problems with gambling.
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission recently said that they believe that there are about 340,000 problem gamblers in the country at present, with around 2 million more people at risk of entering that category all the time.
It’s part of why the calls to limit the influence of gambling companies have grown in recent times, including the self-imposed whistle-to-whistle ban that the gambling industry introduced on sporting events from the start of the Ashes this summer.
Part Of A Wider Push To Help Problem Gamblers
The move comes at a time when campaigners are trying to get more and more done in order to offer help to problem gamblers. Earlier in the month I wrote about the opening of a new gambling addiction clinic in Leeds, which was the first such place to open outside of London.
The services is being run by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and has been funded by NHS England in association with GambleAware.
GambleAware have also partnered with the University of Bristol in order to fund a research project that is aimed at seeing whether or not banks and other financial services can help people suffering from gambling related issues.
It’s Only A Trial For Now
Whilst the move to make the helpline 24-hours is only being done on a trial basis, it’s hoped that it will encourage more people to phone at a time when they’re feeling at their lowest. Anna Hemmings, the Chief Executive of GamCare, made the point that many people feel at their most vulnerable and isolated during the night, so the new service will give them a chance to reach out for help. She said:
“They will now be able to reach our highly trained advisers 24 hours a day, who can offer immediate support, advice and referral to our network of treatment services nationally”.
The sentiment was backed up by Marc Etches, who is the Chief Executive of GambleAware, the body that is responsible for commissioning the Helpline. He said:
“Our priority is to keep people safe and to ensure support services are easily accessible. As such, we are pleased to be funding an extension to the helpline’s operating hours, and we will evaluate its performance over time”.
He also referred to the Helpline as a ‘core element’ of the National Gambling Treatment Service that is being rolled out at the moment. Certainly those most affected by gambling will be pleased that there’s somewhere for them to turn for help, no matter the hour.