‘Problematic’ online slot machine gambling usage on the increase despite relaxing of COVID restrictions.

Ex gambling addict urges people to ‘just talk to someone’ as new data published by GOV.uk shows a huge surge in online slot gambling. Studies show an increase in usage, bets placed and long periods of activity.

The average total number of UK sessions had increased monumentally by 17% from 16,832,862 in March 2019, when COVID restrictions were first introduced, to 41,527,216 in December 2021. 

This increase shows what a huge burden this has been for people who are dealing with addiction. According to the National Gambling Helpline, it has resulted in online gambling slots being considered the most problematic area in 2020/2021 with 31% of online gambling and activities reported as being solely online slot habits. 

Recovered Sheffield gambler, Adam Wood, experienced first hand what online gambling can do to people’s lives. The 24-year-old was in £70,000.00 worth of debt. During December 2019 he was placing bets as high as £400. 

Adam Wood- Ex ga,bling addict

Adam Wood- Ex gambling addict

Mr Wood said: “Even whilst betting with pocket change I saved up £9000, and for someone my age, that is a car or potentially a deposit on a house. I just wasted it all in a couple of weeks. 

“It was scary for me. The deterioration happened so fast. I went from this average kid to then living a life of lies. 

“I was living in a house with my mum and dad and they didn’t have a clue what was going on.

“It is such a big reality check on what I was doing as it was so wrong on so many levels. It was never going up. It was always just deteriorating and going horribly wrong.”

The total number of sessions is not the only area for concern. The average number of those spending over an hour on online slot gambling has steadily increased by over 8% from 1,573,931 in March 2019 to 2,836,813 in December 2021.

Data has also shown a rise in the average bets per vertical as they have increased by 3% from  3,817,370,45 in March 2019 to 6,412,977,21 in December 21.

Adam explains how these small bets as a child can lead to serious problems such as lending from loaning companies to pay off other debts.

While there is an increase in the number of those spending over an hour on online slot gambling, the average session length has decreased steadily from 26 minutes in March 2019 to an average of 18 minutes in December 2021.

Anna Hemmings, Chief Executive of GamCare said: “Despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, this year we have reached more people than ever. For those harmed by gambling, this was a particularly challenging year, in which the isolation, stress and money worries may have been amplified by the pandemic.

We are proud of all our teams, who have shown great resilience throughout, and who have continued to demonstrate their passion and commitment to the work that we do. This meant GamCare was available 24/7, year-round, to offer support to people affected by gambling harms.

Over the next three years, we want to continue to raise awareness of the impact of gambling harms and expand our services to make lasting and positive changes.”

Despite this slight decrease and the easing of COVID restrictions, the National Gambling Helping saw a 9% increase in the total number of calls to the helpline in 2020/21 bringing the total to 41,000. 75% of the gamblers calling the helpline reported being impacted by financial difficulties because of their gambling.

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