It’s Not Always the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas can be a joyous occasion but for some it can be a nightmare. More time on your hands can lead to excessive gambling. Gamcare – who operate the National Gambling helpline – are urging people to look out for the signs that someone may be having a problem with their gambling over the Christmas period.

Gambling problems can ruin Christmas, not just for the gambler but others too. This can include not being able to buy presents for their children because of recent gambling losses. Helpline advisers say this “is something that hits home for many more than anything else.”

The Gamcare site has a live chat option. This is important to use if unable to make a private phone-call. Gamcare know only too well that this is a time of year that can be very difficult for those with a gambling problem.

One problem is if an early December payday comes along with the next payment not until the end of January. That additional cash can increase the temptation to head to an online gambling site or the local bookies/casino. Add some intake of alcohol and plenty of sporting fixtures and the situation can soon get out of hand.

Gamcare have carried out research with 100,000 adults in the UK taking part. This showed that over six million Brits know someone who has a problem with gambling. 20% have used either their Christmas wages or a bonus to place a bet, with 8% saying that happens on a regular basis. 25% of respondents say they had placed a bet in the past and regretted doing so.

One caller to the gambling helpline told how they’d been chasing losses after losing their wages. That just led to more debt. Another even sold presents they’d bought to find more money to gamble with.

Fiona Macleod is the Director of Clinical and Communities. She says: “People who have an issue with gambling may have also spent a long time hiding it, and we often hear that Christmas may be the trigger for them facing their problem.

Not being able to buy presents for their children is something that can hit home for those experiencing gambling harms more than anything else. For some people it might be the isolation and loneliness that is the trigger.”

There are signs that may show a person has a gambling problem. These include someone becoming more withdrawn and not joining in the festivities. There may be a noticeable change in mood and behaviour.

Sleeping problems developing as more time is spent gambling at all times of the day. Financial problems may be occurring as loans are needed or more money than usual being withdrawn from bank accounts. Lies may also be told about just how someone is spending their time.

The National Gambling Helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 0808 8020 133. The numbers using the live chat on the Gamcare website has increased in recent years. In 2020/21 it was 43% (a rise of 6% from the previous year) and the expectation is that figure will increase this year.