GMA to Open Women’s Treatment Center

The Gordon Moody Association has announced that it is to open the first residential treatment center for female gamblers. When it opens in 2021, it will be the first of its kind and the only treatment center in the world exclusively for women. It aims to cater its support to the unique needs of its recipients and will be inclusive of all LGBT and BAME groups.

Two women in a counseling session.

When it opens in 2021, it will be the world’s first residential treatment center specifically for women with gambling disorders. ©Christina Morillo/Pexels

Not Just Men

Through opening the new treatment center, which will be based in the Midlands, the Gordon Moody Association aims to address the growing number of women struggling with problem gambling in the UK. The center will provide 24 women at a time with a safe place to receive essential treatment for gambling disorders. Writing in the Gordon Moody Association’s weekly blog, Retreat and Counselling Program Manager, Jane Fahy explained the need for a specialist facility in the UK. According to Fahy:

“Gambling is the hidden addiction and hidden further again within that is the story of women gamblers and women who are affected others. The number of women gambling in the UK has increased significantly in recent years. And the vulnerability of women to the effects of problem gambling – directly or indirectly – has increased alongside that.”

Evidence shows that the number of women in need of treatment for gambling disorders is indeed rising. Last year the Gordon Moody Association, or GMA, saw the number women visiting its Gambling Therapy website rise by over 100,000. The website received over a million hits from women, with almost 90,000 coming from within the UK. This marked an increase of 76% on the previous year.

In addition to this, according to the National Gambling Treatment Service, 30% of helpline calls received through Gamcare, Gamble Aware and Gambling Therapy came from women. Out of these 9,000 women, 41% sought help for themselves and 59% sought help for a friend or family member.

Inclusive and Tailored Treatment

Despite these figures, it is still difficult to say for certain how many women in the UK are in need of this treatment. Stigma around problem gambling, such as the idea that it is a “man’s problem”, mean that many women can be secretive about the difficulties they may experience managing their wagering. Practical issues such as childcare can also be a barrier for those who require extensive residential therapy.

Last year the GMA received 160 treatment applications for 36 places. As the program is run only three times a year and is limited to 12 participants at a time, the need for an additional treatment center is clear. Under its new plans the GMA hopes to address the under-representation of women in gambling treatment facilities and tailor support to the needs of those receiving it.

The GMA has said that its new center will be evidence based and service-user led. For women severely impacted by gambling disorders, there will be a residential treatment program. Support, counseling and respite will also be available for families and those affected by problem gambling of others.

It is important for the GMA that the most up to date research and evidence is used to inform its treatment programs. Service users will receive support from those with lived experience and the program will be inclusive of LGBT and BAME communities as well as other ethnic and minority groups. Evidence has highlighted that there are gaps in access to treatment amongst these groups.

Initially, the women’s residential treatment center will be able to serve up to 24 women a year. Support will be matched to the needs of recipients, including those from ethnic and minority groups. Alongside the residential treatment scheme, it is hoped that up to 120 women affected by the gambling of a loved one will also be able to receive support each year.

Government Review to Tackle Industry Problems

CEO of the Gordon Moody Association, Matthew Hickey spoke to ITV news about the impact that COVID-19 has had on gamblers this year. He warned:

“The number of people who are most in crisis and in need of treatment has increased. The number of women in particular who need treatment in particular has increased. And also the complexity of the issues young people have has increased. Not only are they coming to us with a gambling issue, they’re also coming to us with another addiction, such as drugs.”

It is hoped that these issues will also be addressed by the government, which has just launched its review of the 2005 Gambling Act. The review aims to bring analog laws into the digital world, and will put issues such as online casino VIP schemes, sports betting advertising and online stakes under the microscope. Kicking off the review, the government has also set a date for the National Lottery age to be raised to 18, which will be in October.

The review has broadly been welcomed, although figures from the gambling industry have warned that it must be evidence-led, and must not drive customers into the arms of black-market operators. From the point of view of those who have lobbied for better safeguards, the review could not come soon enough. Matt Zarb-Cousin, Director of Clean Up Gambling said:

“This wide ranging review is a long overdue opportunity to clean up our outdated gambling laws, which are incompatible with the smartphone era. While the government’s commitment to raising the minimum age to 18 for the National Lottery is welcome, it is just the start. This review has the potential to make Britain a world leader in gambling harm prevention: where online gambling is fair and safe, stake limits minimise addiction, and systems are put in place to prevent unaffordable losses.”

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