Gamcare: A Helping Hand for Problem Gambling

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Gambling goes back millennia. There is evidence of keno slips in ancient China and dice gaming in Troy dated before the Common Era. The advent of gambling addiction treatment, however, is a much more recent innovation.

In 1997, British philanthropists started GamCare as a resource to aid people with gambling problems. The agency works across the United Kingdom, Scotland, and Wales and in 2017-2018, had more than two million unique visitors. If you or a loved one is considering treatment for gambling addiction, here is everything you need to know about the services GamCare offers.

How Does GamCare Work?

GamCare is an independent charity headquartered in London, England. The organization’s mission is “to support those affected by problem gambling through advice treatment, and to minimize gambling-related harm through education, prevention, and communication.” The highest-profile resource is the National Gambling Helpline.

Those in need can call 0808 8020 133 or chat with an advisor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The conversations are free and confidential. Individuals can get personalized one-on-one advice and emotional support, depending on their situation.

When people call, the National Gambling Helpline connects them with an expert. GamCare specifically matches their staff’s skills and competencies into advisor roles and provides ongoing training to maximize assistance. In addition to individual supervision and annual appraisal, GamCare makes sure it is following best practices with its Model of Care, which uses an evidence-based approach to treat individuals and shape procedures.

GamCare trains its advisors to listen and help. They strongly encourage people to talk openly about their concerns—it can be the first step towards a solution. If necessary, an advisor can connect a person with a face-to-face meeting and offer emotional support.

Calls made to GamCare are completely confidential. The organization wants people to feel comfortable calling them, which is why they will not share personal information unless someone explicitly states otherwise. GamCare will only step into a situation if it believes the caller may compromise their safety or the safety of someone else. Examples include:

  • The caller putting their life at risk
  • A report of a partner, friend, or family member hurting the caller
  • The caller harming someone else
  • The call specifically asking for help

Callers can provide GamCare with as much or as little information as they want. GamCare does not have to know a person’s location, name, or address. The National Gambling Helpline is a resource where people discuss their concerns at whatever extent they wish.

Other Resources from GamCare

GameChange Course

The National Gambling Helpline is one of the many ways GamCare helps people with gambling problems. Another is the GameChange Course. It is a self-paced course that takes individuals eight weeks to complete.

GamCare designed the lessons to treat negative emotions and behaviors. The goal is to teach life-long skills people can harness for everyday application. Based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, the treatment provides an outlet for people to reflect, analyze, and change their actions.

Anyone interested in the course can reach out to a GamCare practitioner. The practitioner will walk them through the course and schedule a weekly call to ensure the person moves towards their goals. The initial call typically takes 20 minutes.

Self-Help Resources

GamCare has a wide range of self-help resources that users can read at their leisure. The documents are for anyone who believes they may have a problem with gambling. The information can nip potential gambling problems in the bud before they become detrimental to friends, family members, and the individual. GamCare self-help resources include:

  • GamCare Self-Help Workbook
  • SMART Goal Planner
  • Access, Time and Money worksheet
  • My Gambling Diary
  • Me Today Planner
  • What Will I Gain? worksheet
  • Building a Support Network worksheet
  • Mood Diary
  • Boundaries Map
  • Stress Checklist

Each resource provides insight into the emotions and behaviors of a gambler. Take the Stress Checklist, for instance. The single-paged quiz poses a series of questions and asks participants to rate the accuracy of the statement as “Never,” “Sometimes,” or “Often.”

The goal is to identify symptoms of stress. That can include but is not limited to rashes, headaches, anger, insomnia, restlessness, and panic attacks. Understanding the symptoms of stress allows people to see the root cause more clearly.

If someone experiences stress in conjunction with gambling, their skin may breakout with a series of red rashes. Putting ointment or cream on the outbreaks is only treating the surface-level problem, though. This exercise also helps gamblers to gauge whether stress is the cause of adverse side effects and allows them to move forward toward a healthier life.

Self-Exclusion Resources

GamCare can also put people in touch with self-exclusion programs. While the organization does not operate a self-exclusion resource, it can direct callers to a program near them. The goal is to cut people off from gambling for a set period, typically six months to five years, by blocking access to digital gaming.

Each self-exclusion program is unique. The most well-known one in the United Kingdom is GamStop. The free and independent service lets people opt into a database, and if they choose to initiate self-exclusion, will prevent them from logging into existing online gambling sites or starting new accounts. Most casinos have signed up to GamStop, but there are still casinos not on GamStop.

Many casinos and gambling sites in the United Kingdom use GamStop, even though it is not part of the United Kingdom Gaming Commission (UKGC), which regulates gambling in the UK. GamStop serves as a good-faith effort to curb chronic gambling. Gamblers must sign themselves up for the program. Friends or family members can’t do it for them.

There are for-profit options as well. Gamban is software users can download to Mac, iOS, Windows, and Android devices. After the user creates an account, the application runs in the background and blocks access to more than 40,000 gaming sites.

Gamban software can be purchased for $34.99 per year. There is also a 14-day free trial, which includes unlimited device protection and live technical support. On its website, the company states that it wants to “make Gamban free to the public, which we hope to achieve in the near future.”

What Is the Safer Gambling Standard?

As mentioned above, GamCare makes a concerted effort to implement best practices. The Safer Gambling Standard is a prime example. It represents a standard of quality and responsibility for licensed gambling institutions.

For more than two decades, GamCare has taken a holistic approach to create a safer gambling environment. The organization sources information by interviewing gambling employees, reading policies and procedures, and visiting casinos. If a gambling operator follows through with the guidelines outlined in the Safer Gambling Standard, GamCare awards the gambling site with accreditation.

Land-based and online sites in Great Britain are eligible. The operators can receive accreditation from Level 1 to Level 3. GamCare has approved the following gambling operations:

  • Genting UK plc (Advanced Level 3)
  • Buzz Group Ltd (Advanced Level 2)
  • JPJ Group plc (Dumara Gaming Ltd subsidiary) (Advanced Level 2)
  • Intouch Games Ltd (Advanced Level 2)
  • Gamelot UK Lotteries Ltd (Advanced Level 2)

What Are GamCare Youth Services?

The most frequent callers to GamCare are between the ages of 26 and 35. This age group tends to have less than five years of gambling experience, with 68 per cent of individuals citing an undisclosed amount of debt. While these gamblers represent the current demographics of GamCare callers, the organization makes an effort to help the future generation, too.

The Youth Outreach Programme is available to adolescents across eight regions of Great Britain. The program is free as it provides workshops and CPD-accredited training for at-risk youths. Each session works to achieve the following goals:

  • Promote awareness of the signs, symptoms, and impacts of gambling problems
  • Provide young people with the tools to make informed choices about gambling
  • Encourage an honest, open, and informative discussion about problematic gambling
  • Offer a free, specialized resource so young people can seek help if needed

When to Consider GamCare

More than two million people each year reach out to GamCare. Whether that is through the National Gambling Helpline, online forums, or self-help resources, there are tools to address potential and active gambling problems. The essential step, though, is recognizing the need for help.

While each person has a distinct experience with gambling, there are some through lines. People with gambling problems tend to chase losses, pathologically borrow money, and do it to cope with stress. As a result, they may become obsessive or steal and commit fraud to fuel their gambling habits.

While these may or not apply, there are some myths to keep in mind. For instance, people do not have to gamble every day or lose all their money to have a problem. It is possible to have a budding addiction that does not reflect the worst possible financial outcomes.

Those in need can get in touch with GamCare for free at 0808 8020 133. Anyone calling from Northern Ireland should call 0808 8010 320. There are also options for live chats, group chats, and online forums here.

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