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    Gambling is more often a cause of homeless than a consequence of it.
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Problem Gambling and Homelessness

In this blog, our events and marketing lead Gwyn Thomas de Chroustchoff interviews Diana Yorath, Wales Development Officer for Ara Gambling Service, to talk about gambling problems in Wales during lockdown, and considers research by Dr Steve Sharman about the intersection between gambling, poverty and homelessness.

“Lockdown may have inadvertently provided the perfect storm for those who are affected by problem gambling,” says Diana Yorath. As we head back into a short lockdown, this is just one of the many side effects of the pandemic that have been hard to predict.

Coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown has left many of us feeling isolated, fearful and anxious, as well as bored, with too much time on our hands, she says. “We are all having to manage our existential angst one way or another and while we all have different ways of coping, some people’s chosen coping strategies can be harmful.”

She cites problem gambling as an example of such behaviour. Research carried out by Survation on behalf of Clean Up Gambling showed that regular gamblers may be betting more often. Gambling has become more accessible than ever in this age of digital technology, says Diana, as we’re able to place bets online using phones, tablets or laptops any time of day without leaving home.

When gambling is out of control, it can have a serious and detrimental effect on the gambler and their loved ones, Diana points out. “You can become isolated and secretive, anxious and agitated and in some cases suicidal.  It can become a vicious cycle with gamblers chasing losses, incurring more debt, more fear, more anxiety, more devastation for them and their families.”

Figures suggest that one per cent of the population in Wales identify as a 'problem gambler', with just under four per cent of the population labelled as 'at risk'. But the situation extends wider than those who suffer from the addiction. When you take into consideration the people affected by one person's problem gambling - typically around 15 people to every one gambler - the figures multiply considerably.

GamStop, an industry-wide scheme which allows people to ban themselves from betting, has seen an increase in former gamblers asking to end their self-exclusion since the first lockdown began.  A survey of more than 1,000 people commissioned by Clean Up Gambling found that two thirds of regular gamblers have been gambling more during the coronavirus outbreak.

Gambling, poverty and homelessness

At Excessive Gambling Wales 2018, members of the Cymorth Cymru team attended a talk by Dr Steve Sharman, whose research links gambling, poverty and homelessness, and made contact with him after the event because of his research’s relevance to Cymorth Cymru’s work. Down and Out in London: Addictive Behaviors in Homelessness is a report which Dr Sharman, as lead author, drew our attention to.

This report follows research on the psychology of poverty by Johannes Haushofer and Ernst Fehr which showed that “poverty can have negative psychological effects on economic decision-making, encouraging risky and short-sighted choices that can perpetuate a vicious cycle of poverty.”

Dr Sharman and his co-authors found that gambling is far more prevalent in people experiencing homelessness, with nearly a quarter of those in the study taking part in problem gambling, and also drew the important conclusion that it’s more often a cause of homeless than a consequence of it.

The research indicates that this is an area which the Welsh Government and the housing, support and homelessness sector should be particularly attentive to, in order to help reach the goal of making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring in Wales.

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Ara Gambling Service is the GamCare Partner in Wales and provides free telephone counselling for both the gambler and affected others. Referral is easy. You can ring: 03301 340286 or e-mail: aragamblingservice@recovery4all.co.uk for free confidential support or you can contact the

CAIS run a service for people with gambling problems, which is available to people throughout Wales. Since problems with alcohol and gambling sometimes go together, CAIS and The Living Room Cardiff are working with Alcohol Concern to develop this service and ensure it’s based on the best international evidence. https://www.cais.co.uk/services/beat-the-odds/

National Gambling Helpline  on 0808 8020 133 which is open 24/7 and speak to one of their advisors.

 

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© Cymorth Cymru 2021
Company Registration No: 5093332
Charity No: 1116774