More than 200,000 people are now registered with GAMSTOP, the free, independent national self-exclusion scheme for online gambling, after a spike in numbers during lockdown.
Registrations in February 2021 increased 21% year-on-year, with nearly 6,500 people choosing to exclude themselves from all UK-licensed sites, which followed a 14% year-on-year increase in January when more than 7,000 people registered. There were 326 registrations on February 22, the highest daily figure recorded in GAMSTOP’s history.
The 200,000 landmark, which was not expected to be reached until later in the year, coincides with the first anniversary of a shake-up in the self-exclusion system. From March 31 last year it became a licensing requirement for all online operators to be registered with GAMSTOP.
According to the Gambling Commission, the total number of online bets rose by 12% from November to December 2020, and the trend towards more online gambling may be leading to more vulnerable individuals choosing to exclude themselves from all sites.
In January 2021, 49,328 GAMSTOP-excluded individuals out of a possible 177,038 attempted to gamble and were successfully blocked by the scheme. While this demonstrates the effectiveness of GAMSTOP, it also highlights that self-exclusion is not a silver bullet for those with a gambling addiction, who should always seek treatment alongside blocks they have in place.
GAMSTOP advocates a layered approach to tackling problem gambling and is collaborating with GamCare and Gamban on the TalkBanStop campaign, which promotes the use of a range of practical tools and support via The National Gambling Helpline.
Registration with GAMSTOP is free, with people asked to fill in personal details and select an exclusion period of six months, one year or five years. More than 120,000 of those who have registered chose to put in place a five-year exclusion, the longest term possible.
GAMSTOP was launched in April 2018 and, of those who chose shorter self-exclusion periods, and therefore became eligible to remove themselves from the scheme from October 2018 onwards, 96 per cent left the exclusion in place. Since that date, 15,400 have removed their exclusion only to reinstate it.
Recently, the number of women registered with GAMSTOP surpassed 50,000, and the gender split on the scheme is 71 per cent male, 29 per cent female. 18-34 year-olds are the most prolific age group using GAMSTOP, accounting for 59 per cent of all registrants.
Fiona Palmer, CEO of GAMSTOP, said: “We’re pleased that GAMSTOP is serving as an effective safety net, providing crucial breathing space to those who are struggling with their gambling. With the rate of registrants continuing to rise, I would urge anybody putting self-exclusion from online gambling in place through GAMSTOP to also seek treatment. Awareness around self-exclusion schemes and blocking software has been increasing throughout the last year, and it is important that we continue to spread the message about what help is available to those who need it most.”
Matt Blanks, 35, is a recovering gambling addict who registered with GAMSTOP after his addiction led to him trying to take his own life. He now uses his experience to help other suffering with the addiction.
He said: “Signing up to GAMSTOP was a massive relief to me. I had previously had to self-exclude with each individual operator, and would simply move onto the next site who I hadn’t self-excluded from. It was like a game of whack-a-mole, and I kept relapsing. GAMSTOP helped me self-exclude from all online gambling sites in one go, giving me space to clear my head, seek support and kickstart my recovery journey.”