Gambling harm prevention charity GamCare has expressed concerns in its Lockdown Report that vulnerable gamblers are hindered in their ability to seek help due to privacy issues.

The report monitored how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people experiencing gambling harms and their adjustments in securing support and treatment.

As the operator of the ‘National Gambling Helpline’ (funded by GambleAware), the charity discovered that privacy issues drove sufferers to change how they engaged with its frontline services.

The charity also noted that ‘discretionary factors of living in close proximity of family and loved ones’ saw those in need switch to its live chat function, over its 24/7 telephone service.

Monitoring vulnerable interactions since the beginning of March, GamCare stated that it has seen an increase in users accessing its daily chatrooms, in which Covid-related concerns surrounding finances and isolation have been marked as key anxieties by callers.

National Helpline frontline staff also flagged increased concerns related to ‘domestic abuse being experienced by callers’.

Overall, the report underlined that despite GamCare treatment services remaining high, the number of people beginning treatment during the period of March-to-August remained lower than in 2019.

The charity published its lockdown report alongside its recent UKGC market update, in which the regulator revealed that ‘gambling participation’ had dropped nationally.

However, 18-34 year olds were detailed as the ‘most engaged gamblers’, with the segment increasing ‘time or money spent on gambling activities, plus using online gambling products they had not tried before’.

Heading into the UK’s winter and autumn months, GamCare cited its public concerns of a YouGov study commissioned by GambleAware which detailed that approximately half (52%) of those saying they gambled more cited ‘relieving boredom or for something to do’ as a reason for doing so.

Anna Hemmings, Chief Executive of GamCare, said: “There is no doubt that the pandemic has impacted people’s help-seeking, particularly in the initial phase of the pandemic when our daily lives were immeasurably changed. Our service users are speaking to us about increasing anxiety, isolation and money worries.

“As we now look at further lockdowns across various areas, we need to be aware of the impact and risks for gamblers experiencing harm. We need to be more vocal about encouraging people to seek help despite the external pressures, and to remind people that we’re here to help as we did in the summer with our #ReadyToTalk campaign.

“There is no doubt that gamblers and their loved ones will continue to need support, perhaps increasingly so. GamCare is doing all it can to be flexible and tailor its services to meet those complex and changing needs during the pandemic and beyond. From the very first contact you have with us, we can make a difference – if you’re worried about your gambling or anyone else’s, talk to us now.”